After a stint on The Ultimate Fighter’s 22nd season that didn’t go in an ideal manner, New Mexico’s Andres Quintana went back home and sharpened his skills to work his way up the ladder. Three fights later, he made his way into Combate Americas and hasn’t lost since, fighting and defeating some of the best featherweights the organization has.
Now he’s representing the United States in this week’s Copa Combate, the second annual one-night tournament in which 8 participants fight it out for a $100,000 grand prize, a shiny trophy, and major bragging rights. As one of the brightest prospects in the organization, Quintana’s trying to make sure he ends up on top, and has no doubts he’ll be standing at the top when it’s over.
Quintana sat down to talk shop, including his long 2018, previous experience to guide him in the tournament, his bond with his head coach and plans after the event.
Victor Rodriguez: So you’re gonna be in a one-night, eight-man tournament - have you ever been in this kind of situation before, fighting more than once per night?
Andres Quintana: Actually, in a weekend, not in a single night. I competed in Golden Gloves. I competed in tournaments in boxing, in which I would compete multiple times in short, you know, a few days. Kinda similar.
VR: And how many rounds were those bouts?
AQ: I believe I fought three times...
VR: Four rounders?
AQ: Four rounds. They were three minutes each. It was an open tournament.
VR: Well, what have you seen from the opposition field? Do you know much about either one of these participants or are you pretty much flying blind into this and carrying yourself based on your talent?
AQ: I don’t really do too much research, even on single fights. You know, I tell my coaches about them and they handle it from there. They come up with the gameplan, they’re the masterminds behind everything. I’m just their little puppet and I go out and do what they tell me (laughs).
VR: So far you’ve got five consecutive wins, and there are a couple of submissions thrown in there and you’re really on a tear. So, what do you think will be the most difficult thing about this one-night situation?
AQ: I believe that probably the most difficult thing will be trying to stay healthy, you know?Because I go out and I like to throw. I gotta keep that in check and make sure I’m not getting too reckless and try to finish the fight too soon, not banging myself up a little bit more than what’s necessary. Like, my last fight I took some - not unnecessarily risks - but I played it a lot more safe than normally would have. I jumped back and I promise you, you would never see me do that in a normal fight. You’d see me try to end the fight.
VR: Well, looking at the opposition you’ve had, Erick Sanchez, Levy Marroquin, Erick Gonzalez, some of the guys that have fought a few times for Combate, and Levy, who won the tournament last year in Cancún and known for being very tough. You’re kinda, I don’t wanna say that you’ve breezed through them, but you’ve already handled some of the better names in the organization’s division so far. So do you expect anything new or different out of the upcoming crop of guys you’ll be facing? Or are you just sticking to your usual mantra of just letting your team be the copilots while focusing on your improvements?
AQ: Aw, you don’t gotta sugarcoat it for them, you know I breezed through! (laughs) Bro, yeah. Yeah. I’m not too worried about anyone. There’s probably a couple of tough guys in there. My coaches said that basically we gotta keep an eye out on (former Bellator fighter) Pablo Villaseca, I believe? He’s from Chile?
AQ: And Alejandro (Flores). Those the guys my coaches looked at and really dissected, you know? Other than that, I feel like I can do what I want, play my game against all these other opponents.
VR: And how would you categorize your game? How would you describe that?
AQ: My game? Stand up. Sock people up until they get scared enough to shoot on me and then smash them on the ground then and there.
VR: The last time we met in person was back in May prior to the Tijuana fight against Marco Elpidio, and you were supremely confident going into that fight. And you, I wouldn’t say that you cruised through, but you had a degree of control and confidence during the fight that was just brimming. I want to know - where does that come from for you?
AQ: Honestly, I’ve just been doing this most of my life and I know how skilled and talented I am, and it doesn’t come out of nowhere. I mean, I put in a lot of work. I’m not over here just, f—king half-assing it or anything. I’m here to do a job, and I feel like I’m the best at my job. So I figured if I wasn’t the best, why am I even in this sport?
VR: During that fight, I poked a little fun at your head coach Chris Luttrell, given his cageside... antics, I guess we could call them.
VR: He’s very enthusiastic...
VR: He seems to love watching you fight and how coachable you are going moment to moment in there. What’s been the biggest influence you’ve gotten under his tutelage?
AQ: Man, honestly... he’s f—king increased my game tenfold. I came to him as an amateur, not to take anything away from my previous coaches, but he’s been around the sport maybe 30 years? He’s the one that brought MMA to Albuquerque. He just has so much knowledge. He flew to every place you can imagine and brought back all of their information, all the techniques and dissected it here in Albuquerque. And he kept what worked and threw out what wasn’t useful. I mean, all those years of experience, his knowledge, I’m like his star student. I’ve really taken to everything he’s been able to teach me and he’s a wrestler. So, we come from kind of opposite backgrounds - I’m a striker, he’s a wrestler, but we’ve merged everything so well. If you guys can’t tell by now...
VR: Let’s see... Night of the tournament, you blaze through the field, you get your hand held up at the end and you get that big, shiny trophy that they just unveiled not too long ago. What’s the first thing you plan on doing? Where do you go from there?
AQ: I’m probably gonna take a little break. I’ve been in training camp all year long. I was scheduled for a fight earlier this year, I think... March?
VR: April. It was (former UFC fighter) Horacio (Gutierrez), right?
AQ: Yeah! Somewhere around there...
VR: ... I mean, you’ve been nonstop since December of last year when you fought (Ray) Trujillo.
AQ: Right after December I took a little break, but not long. By January, I jumped into camp. I’ve been, literally, in camp all damn year. So I’mma take a small break and let my body recover. I put my body through hell this year. These last two years, honestly. I’m gonna enjoy some family time, gonna go on a few vacations and enjoy that hundred K.
VR: Do you have any message for anyone in the field, anything you wanna let them know before the whole thing even kicks off?
AQ: I couldn’t care less what they think. They’re gonna know what’s up whenever I step in the cage with them, If they get that far. I ain’t here to make friends.