CJ Vergara details his crazy MMA journey, from backyard brawls to UFC on ESPN 43

SAN ANTONIO – Once CJ Vergara’s fighting career is over, he probably has a future as a promoter.

When Vergara was a teenager growing up in Texas near San Antonio, he found himself the de facto boss of a backyard fight club. Not only did he fight, but he said he also stirred things up behind the scenes to help with matchmaking.

But just being in that position to begin with, Vergara said, came from some of the typical trappings of American high school life.

“I was 15 years old when that happened. I was a freshman in high school and I was new to the area,” Vergara said at Wednesday’s media day for UFC on ESPN 43. “I was getting bullied, picked on, so I started a rumor that I was a trained fighter. Meanwhile, I was doing all of my back research: I was watching Matt Hughes takedown videos, Chuck Liddell takedown defense videos, Tito Ortiz ground-and-pound stuff, and putting all the pieces together that I could. Then I’d go practice it on the tough guys from the football team, whoever it was. I just kept getting better and better. Meanwhile, I had the passion that I had, but couldn’t convince my parents to put me in a gym yet. So that’s where (my fighting career) started from.”

Vergara (10-4-1 MMA, 1-2 UFC) on Saturday gets a home fight when he takes on Daniel Da Silva (11-4 MMA, 0-3 UFC) in a flyweight bout on the UFC on ESPN 43 prelims at AT&T Center in San Antonio. The main card airs on ESPN following prelims on ESPN+.

Vergara said there’s no pressure fighting at home – even if it’s in front of some of the same people he put hands on during backyard fights back in the day.


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“It was about 10 miles down the road that we were fighting in backyards every single weekend,” Vergara said. “At the time, I was telling everybody that I was going to be in the UFC some day. Here I am in that full-circle moment, living out that manifestation and dream that I set out to do in front of my hometown crowd. I have a massive following in San Antonio, so when I go out and perform this Saturday, it is going to put this city on the map having a fighter from the city coming up the way that I am.

“… That is what brought me to this position I’m in right now is because the specific pressure that comes with being a fighter. Things go really good or things go as bad as they possibly can. So for me to step into the octagon here in San Antonio and put everything that I’ve ever done and said on the line in front of everybody that I know, and everybody that knows me, is exactly what keeps me up every day and honestly keeps me up at night sometimes. So yes, the pressure is there. And the pressure is what keeps me improving.”

Check out Vergara’s full media day interview in the video above.

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC on ESPN 43.

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie