Menjivar Hopes to Deliver Fight of His Career at UFC 129


The last time Ivan Menjivar (Pictured) fought in the UFC, he was competing two weight divisions heavier than his current home at 135 pounds. Despite the disadvantage, though, “The Pride of El Salvador” went the distance against future UFC welterweight champion Matt Serra, who was fighting at 155 then.

That’s the story of Menjivar’s career thus far: fighting, and often beating, bigger opposition. He dropped a decision to Serra in their bout at UFC 48 in June 2004, but his entertaining performance continued to stir speculation over how good he could be if the UFC had a bantamweight division.

Now it does, and nearly seven years later, Menjivar will return to the Octagon on Saturday in his home of Canada, at his natural weight of 135.

“In the beginning I was dreaming for the sport to become big like [this],” Menjivar said recently on the Sherdog Radio Network’s “Beatdown” show. “In the next five years, this sport should be better and bigger. But for right now, it’s a great, great moment for us.”

Menjivar has fought just twice since returning to MMA after a three-and-a-half-year hiatus. He had left the sport in November 2006 to tend to a knee injury and spend time with his family.

“That was a good time for me to take a break to focus on my family and myself,” he said. “When I saw ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ coming out, I realized, oh, this is going to be big and people are going to love it. I realized it was a bad moment to take a break, but life is like that.”

Menjivar submitted Aaron Miller with a triangle choke last June in his return bout. In December he debuted in the WEC, dropping an entertaining decision to Brad Pickett.

“I enjoyed the fight,” Menjivar said. “It was fun to fight with him. He’s strong. He punched me and I punched him, but I made mistakes. I didn’t [follow] my strategy much, my plan much, and he took me down. That’s why I lost.”

The back-and-forth bout likely helped Menjivar work out the kinks of his comeback, however. He’ll need to be sharp at UFC 129, when he takes on Charlie Valencia.

“I know he has good wrestling and good submissions,” Menjivar said. “I’ll have to [be careful] and don’t let him play the game. … I’ve seen his last three or four fights. I studied him with my partners and coach. We studied him to not make bad mistakes. We have a secret strategy to confuse him and play with him and to give a good fight at the same time.”

Putting on an exciting fight seems to be of the utmost importance for Menjivar. He has a reputation as an entertainer, and he’ll have the biggest audience of his career with the UFC already selling 55,000 tickets for the event. It’s an enormous stage for a fighter who has long waited his turn. He plans on giving fans their money’s worth whether they’re inside the Rogers Centre in Toronto or watching on pay-per-view.

“Everybody can see us in Australia, everywhere -- China, Japan, they’re watching us,” Menjivar said. “That’s why my only goal is to go in there 100 percent and give them the best fight they’ve ever seen before.”

Listen to the full interview (beginning at 43:10).

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