M-1 Global Champ Jose Figueroa “Ready to be in the Spotlight”
By Kelsey Mowatt
As M-1 Global makes inroads in North America, thanks in part to its broadcasting deal with Showtime, the promotion continues to turn to rising fighters like Vinny Magalhaes, Guram Gugenishvili and newly minted lightweight champion Jose Figueroa to drive up interest. After Figueroa impressed on national television on March 25th, by dominating former champ Artiom Damkovsky for the second round stoppage win, M-1 will turn again to the ATT Orlando fighter for its next Showtime broadcast on July 8th. (Pictured: Figueroa hitting Damkovsky)
“I’ve seen him a little bit,” said Figueroa about his next opponent, German veteran Daniel Weichel. “I know he has fought a lot of good veterans and that he probably has more fights than a lot of guys with M-1, so I’m really excited about it.”
In fact, Weichel (26-7) has fought over twice as many times as Figueroa (10-4), as the 26 year-old is just one year away from having competed professionally for a decade. More recently Weichel has won three straight and is 8-2 in his last ten fights.
“I think he’s a good wrestler, a really good submission artist, and has pretty good ground-and-pound,” said Figueroa. “Seems like he’s a finisher and has a good amount of submissions he can turn to. I think he’s pretty good on his feet but I don’t think that’s his most comfortable position. I just think he’s stronger with the wrestling and jiu-jitsu.”
At 6’3, Figueroa will likely have the range and reach on the shorter, 5’10 Weichel, but according to the lightweight champ, that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll look to keep the fight standing.
“I could end up looking for that,” Figueroa said. “I’m always looking to stand-up if I don’t feel like it’s going my way with takedowns or what not. I’m always looking for that even if I am also looking for the takedowns, which I think you saw in my last fight. Maybe I’ll do that in this fight too, or maybe I’ll just look to keep this fight standing.”
Indeed, it was through Figueroa’s takedowns and subsequent top game that the 26 year-old fighter punished Damkovsky, en route to what was unquestionably his biggest win to date.
“Oh man, it was a great opportunity,” said Figueroa about the win, which may have marked the first time many fans had seen him perform. “It was an honor to fight for Showtime, in the main event for M-1. I was just glad that all the hard training, all the time I put in came through at that point. I know I’m ready for this stage of my career; I’m ready to be in the spotlight.”
After dropping three fights in a row, which included losses to current UFC competitor Edson Mendes Barboza Jr. and Bellator vet Luis Palomino, Figueroa’s career has undergone a sharp turnaround over the last year. In addition to his recent win over Damkovsky, Figueroa scored victories over Joshua Thorpe and George Sheppard last Fall, to win M-1 Global’s Americas Selection tourney.
“Just not taking big fights with a lot of rust has helped,” since Figueroa, who also credited training with Muay Thai instructor Bobby Robare once again for his recent success. “I lost two of them after having a year off being injured and having a hard time finding a couple of fights. Between that and injuries I had a lot of time off. Now that I’ve gotten rid of the rust I’m ready to go.”
“I would like to fight and defend my title as many times as possible before the year is up,” Figueroa added while discussing his future. “I’m not trying to sit around and not defend it. I want to defend my belt as much as possible and gain as much experience as I can.”