Chasing your dreams almost always comes with sacrifice, especially when those dreams involve an MMA career. The sport is still in the stages of trying to shed its "human cockfighting" image and even today, more than 20 years after its inception, there are still a few states that have not legalized it on a professional competition level.
Sam Oropeza knows all about making sacrifices to chase a dream. Currently riding a 7 fight win streak (the last 5 have been via TKO), the 29 year-old middleweight attraction and former Bully Beatdown cast fighter has decided that getting to the UFC is of the utmost importance, so he's asked for and been granted his release from Bellator. In a recent interview with Bloody Elbow, Oropeza outlined why he took a pay cut to fight for another organization with much less presence in the community.
For me, I try to look at everything in the big picture. What makes me happy? What makes me happy is being able to fight in front of my friends and family. We tend to look at things in life in terms of, ‘Don't do that if you're only going to get this.' I'm like everybody else, I like money and I want to get paid. Let's face it, everybody, in all walks of life, wants to get paid more. If they say, ‘No, I don't want any more money,' they're lying.
To have that small show where all your friends and family are there, that excitement and that feeling of pure adrenaline that comes from hearing the crowd and feeling their energy...I love that feeling. There's nothing like it. I really believe that this will be the last time my people will get the chance to do that, unless they're willing to fly out and watch me do this on a much grander scale.
Bellator cards mostly take place in casino venues on a smaller scale than the UFC, but are always televised and they've made a dedicated, concentrated effort to improve their product. Sam opted to trade that for a more urban atmosphere and a smaller purse than he's grown accustomed to, in what he feels will be his last fight before the UFC offers him a contract.
It's a small venue. It's a night club that they're turning into a fight venue. We're talking less than 2000 people at full capacity. It will be a packed house. The fire marshall might be stopping by [laughs]. It's gonna be a full house.
I definitely took a cut in pay, but I'm okay with that. So many people just sit and wait to die. That's not me. It's always been my dream to fight in the UFC. I'm not concerned with the external factors, the lawsuits or any of that stuff. To be able to fight at the Mandalay Bay, to shake Dana White's hand at weigh-ins and have Joe Rogan call my fight, that's what I want.
The world watches the UFC. Bellator is starting to show some success, but for me to go after this dream of mine, to turn it into reality and maybe one day grow into a champion, that's what makes waking up every day so exciting for me.
Unlike Scott Coker's predecessor, Bjorn Rebney, Coker was very accommodating in granting Oropeza's release, making the whole experience pleasant and stress-free.
It was an easy release. Bellator has been good to me and always treated me well. All the people thast work there now are awesome. They are just down to earth, good people.
Sam's manager has recently relocated to Las Vegas and according to the Philadelphia native, is routinely in contact with the UFC and close to getting a deal set for him.
Sam Oropeza faces Timothy Woods tonight at the GPG event center for the Global Proving Ground promotion. The fight will be the main event. You can watch this card via GFL Entertainment: