Interview: Hong Kong's adopted son, Alberto Mina makes awaited UFC debut after years in contract limbo

Photo by Paolo Tabuena

Undefeated since starting his MMA career 8 years ago, Alberto Mina should've been given a shot at the big leagues a long time ago. It's better late than never though, as the Hong Kong native spoke to Bloody Elbow about his long road to the UFC.

Alberto Mina, a highly decorated grappler with black belts in both judo and jiujitsu first gained notoriety a couple years back as he tore through the regional scene in Brazil and England. Following his quality win over TUF alum Dean Amasinger, he was named to the World MMA Scouting Report as one of the top welterweight prospects back in 2010 with most expecting him to be picked up by bigger organizations.

After just one fight in 2011 though, this undefeated fighter suddenly became inactive for two straight years. Mina moved to Hong Kong and was on the cusp at fighting in bigger shows, until a contract dispute put that dream on hold once more.

"I had some issues in regards to contracts with another organization," Mina told as he talked about his troubles with Bellator, "So I have been (on hold under) these contracts and I used my lawyers and everything to get me a release. It cost me nearly two years."

"I should speak briefly about this. The point is, I signed for their tournament, but there were a lot of issues like the delay in the tournament, or that the contract wouldn't be for three fights but just a single fight. It had become a big issue, then I've just been on hold, stuck on that contract," he explains, "Personally, I believe that every fighter just wants to sign a contract with an event because they just want to fight, but this was beyond my control and I couldn't do anything."

During that stretch, Mina has been based at Hong Kong's best gym in Epic MMA, constantly training until he got the chance to compete again late last year.

"After that two years, I had to come back to my camp and really train properly. To not just come back (for the sake of coming back), which would unnecessarily risk everything that I have built in my career, he said, "It took quite a bit of time from my career, but I am pretty confident now that I can return and be in a good path."

While some people claim ring rust can be a huge factor especially for someone out that long, Mina says he has done everything to offset any of these effects.

"I've been doing martial arts since I was 5 years old. This is not the first challenge or the first difficulty I've had in my career. Two years away from MMA is a long time, but I have been active," he states, "I've been teaching and training with other professional fighters, so it has never been an issue with me."

"The fight in Singapore last December has also been a good start to get that rhythm and that base to compete again."

That last fight, a first round knockout win over Team Quest's Glenn Sparv at Rebel FC 1 where Mina displayed the fruits of the two years spent with Vuyisile Colossa and other high level strikers in Hong Kong.

"I think fighters, every time they face a Brazilian jiujitsu black belt, they want to fight striking, or they will be very protective about the ground game. During that fight, even when it went to the ground, I couldn't see it developing there so I fought with my stand up," he said, as he talked about showcasing his improved striking, "In my gym, I'm lucky to have world champions in Muay Thai, and they really push me hard. To be a well-rounded fighter today, you have to be able to fight at any scenario. I've dominated my fights with tapouts, submissions, and a couple of TKOs, but I was really looking forward to strike more (on that bout)."

Following that win in Singapore, Mina finally got the call to compete in the UFC. He competes in Macau this weekend just across the delta from his adopted home, and although he was born in Brazil, this Hong Kong native is looking forward to representing the city. He has been part of the rapidly growing MMA scene in the country, with his students and peers expected to be in full force supporting their adopted hero come fight time.

"I'm definitely representing Hong Kong," Mina exclaimed, "I've always said that I am a citizen of the world. I've been around the planet, teaching, doing seminars and stuff, but I've been very well received in Hong Kong and I really feel at home here. Even if I've just spent a short two years here, I feel like a real representative of Hong Kong now."

"The gym I work with is a pioneer of MMA in Hong Kong. I know Japan and Singapore have a lot of gyms, but in Hong Kong this was a big thing. We've been developing well. Seeing the results we have had in just two years, I believe Hong Kong very soon will be a big player in Asia."

After years of being on the grind coupled with years of being in contract limbo, this undefeated fighter finally inches closer to his dream. As he steps foot in the Octagon this Saturday, he will be welcomed by a Bellator vet and TUF alum in Zak Cummings, and it's a challenge he relishes.

"He's a very tough guy. The most interesting thing is that he has been moving between different (weight) categories. He's been light heavyweight, middleweight and now he's a welterweight," he said as he spoke about the match up, "Of course against any wrestler, I have to be doubly careful about it. I know they consider me as just a grappler and a black belt in jiujitsu, but I have been working on my skills in striking as well, so let's see."

"Everything in the UFC is completely different of course. Everything is high level and we don't have easy fights," he says, "Even if the fight gets finished in the first round, I believe it will not be easy, but I've been waiting my whole life for that, so I have nothing to complain about."

Follow me on twitter -- @antontabuena

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