Ten months ago, a disappointed Damacio Page (15-8) vowed he’d be back in the UFC by July 2013. That deadline is rapidly approaching, and “The Angel of Death” is still a few weeks out from his first fight outside of the octagon.
“It wasn’t me not wanting to fight,” Page told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com). “It was more my management keeping up with it for me. I had zero injuries.
“Realistically, I should be back in the UFC right now. My projected goal was to fight three or four times and be back in the UFC by July. My ex-manager didn’t live up to my expectations, and I had to take matters into my own hands. I let him go, and I actually went and negotiated my own contracts. I made a deal on my own because I wanted to fight.”
Page, who also fought five times under the WEC banner before that promotion ceded its talent to the UFC, was once considered one of the world’s top 135-pounders. However, a disappointing four-fight skid saw him submitted in consecutive fights by Demetrious Johnson, Brian Bowles, Brad Pickett and Alex Caceres. The final loss in that run took place in July 2012, and Page was released from the promotion.
In retrospect, Page admits battling through injuries during that run cost him dearly. He also believes trying to live up to a set of perceived expectations led to some mistakes in his approach inside the cage.
“I had a lot of pressure on me,” Page admitted. “In some rankings, I was as high as sixth, and I knew there were a lot of expectations on me. I did a lot when I was healthy, but then I got a lot of injuries, and people still expected me to do big things again.
My first fight coming back was against Demetrious Johnson, whose now a world title holder at 125 pounds, and respectfully so. After that, then I had a fight with Brian Bowles, another guy who just came out of a title-contention fight. Then I had another injury, and they brought me to another world-title contender in Brad Pickett. He’s an awesome fighter, as well, and I was putting this extra pressure on myself like, ‘I need to perform. I need to press. I need to finish this fight to make everybody afraid of me still.’
“I was leaving holes in my game. Conditioning wasn’t a factor. It was me not controlling the fight. I was out of control because I was putting so much pressure on myself. I’m a finisher, so it was like I had to finish the fight, and I was putting myself in bad positions trying to do so.”
Now, 10 months later, Page has had more than enough time to contemplate the necessary changes. He’s trained consistently throughout his time off, traveling to camps across the nation to get new looks but always returning home to New Mexico’s famed Jackson-Winkeljohn MMA.
Now, as he nears 31 years of age, he’s determined to get back into the UFC.
“No disrespect to the guys that are on these smaller circuits,” Page said. “There are good guys. There are great fighters that are going to be in the big show one day. But I belong in the big show.
“I need to get fights to get back. I’m not getting any younger. I’m an older fighter, and I’ve got to get the ball rolling.”
Page’s first chance to take a step in the right direction comes later this month when he meets Texan Patrick Ybarra on the AXS TV-televised main card of Legacy FC 20, which takes place May 31 at American Bank Center in Corpus Christi, Texas.
While Ybarra lacks Page’s experience, he also boasts four submission wins among his five career victories. Grappling has been Page’s Achilles’ heel during his losing streak, but he said he didn’t hesitate when offered the matchup.
“No disrespect to these kids that are coming up,” Page said. “They’re all tough fighters, but I think he’s going to have a little bit more built-up anxiety because he’s never fought somebody of my caliber. That plays into my game.
“As long as I stay nice and relaxed and do what I have to do, I should be able to get the ‘W’ at the end of the night. It’s nothing against this kid. He’s a tough kid.”
Fortunately for Page, his layoff has not been financially damaging. He tucked a few dollars away from his UFC run, and he makes money outside of fighting through a few rental properties, as well as side business remodeling houses. But money has never been what drove Page to fight, and it’s not fueling his desire to return to the UFC.
Page is simply a fighter at heart, and he’s ready to get back to the sport’s biggest stage.
“It’s not about the money,” Page said. “It’s about winning and getting back to the big show, where I belong. The gameplan is to get back to the UFC. I’m going to take people apart, put them away, but just be smart with it.
“I’ve got to make a good run. I can’t lose again, and I’ll be ready whenever Joe Silva and Sean Shelby call me back, you know? I don’t care when they call or who it’s to fight. My gameplan is to go out there and win and win impressively.”
For more on Legacy FC 20, stay tuned to the MMA Rumors section of the site.