Joe SotoIt seems like every time former Bellator featherweight champion Joe Soto gets a little momentum, something happens to derail him.

Most recently, Soto picked up back-to-back wins in 2012, but a nagging injury finally caused him to take what has amounted to nearly a year and a half off from fighting.

Still, Soto has used the time to further his career outside the cage and improve himself as a fighter.

“I had to take some time off because I had another surgery on my eye,” he said. “I moved back to my hometown of Porterville (Calif.) and I opened my own gym and have been coaching there. I’ve been training with a lot of guys from the valley like Cody Gibson, Issac DeJesus, going around gym to gym training. I needed the break for my eye, but I always intended to come back to fighting.”

When it comes to now being the head of his own gym, Soto told that he enjoys the experience and that he felt it was necessary as he moves further into his career.

“It’s something that I wanted to do when I was done fighting, so I kind of wanted to get on it now, especially with my eye injury,” he said. “It’s good to have some other incoming other than fighting.”

Now that he is healthy and has things in order, Soto (11-2) is set to return to fighting at Tachi Palace Fights 17 on Thursday against CageSport champion Cory Vom Baur (6-2).

“It’s an interesting match-up because he’s good where I’m good too,” said Soto of Vom Baur. “On paper, he might even be a better wrestler; on paper I might be better in jiu-jitsu because I’m a brown belt. I feel like I’m better everywhere than most of these guys. I haven’t seen much video on him, so I’m not sure how things will go, but I’m real confident in my abilities.”

Soto feels that he will be an even better fighter this time out compared to his last fight in 2012.

“You might see something a little bit different,” he said. “I feel like I’ve gotten better every year.

“When I got into Bellator, I was still young in my career, and now I feel I’m technically better than ever. Every time I fight I feel like I get better, so I’m excited for this fight.”

Hopefully with injury problems behind him, Soto is look to make one of his longtime goals come true in 2014.

“I’ve had a few fights since the Eddie Yagin loss, and I won both of them, and I’m healthy now and ready to start accomplishing my dreams,” said Soto.

“One of those dreams is to fight in the UFC, and now that I’m released from Bellator, I can pick up a couple victories and some nice finishes, and hopefully I can get in there.”

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