It takes long hours in the gym to rank among the 15 best UFC fighters in the flyweight division, which makes it all the harder to believe Jordan Espinosa spent nearly a quarter of 2019 playing on his PlayStation 4. That does not include all the computer gaming he did last year.
There are parents and advocates out their consider video games a menace, but fighters like Demetrious Johnson and Sean O’Malley would beg to differ. Count Espinosa among them. He says video games are not only a way to relax between training sessions, but once served as a key component in keeping him away from the street life.
“As a kid it was more a way to get away from everything. It helped me not to deal with some stuff that was going on in my life,” he told Bloody Elbow ahead of his fight with Alex Perez at UFC Raleigh . “Or at least a distraction or coping mechanism for some of the negative things that were going on in my life.”
“I grew up in a rough area, I moved constantly. My early elementary, most of it was in Northwest, Indiana [and] East Chicago, Indiana. Pretty rough area. My parents got divorced so I moved in with my mom. That was Memphis, Tennessee, another rough area. Came out here [Albuquerque, New Mexico], ended up losing our house,” he elaborated. “I had to live with my wrestling coach. Different things that happened as a kid. Luckily, cause of my wrestling coach and because of sports I was able to stay on the right path. Outside of sports, video games helped keep me staying a nerd and not doing stuff in the streets. So I’m grateful for it.”
Espinosa credits his wrestling coaches for keeping him on the straight and narrow. As he continues to climb the UFC ranks, his upbringing reminds him that not everyone is so fortunate when it comes to role models and support systems.
“I was probably a bit lucky and more fortunate than most because I had several people — especially in my high school days — that were parental figures or big brother figures,” he shared. “My wrestling coach is just one of many. My assistant wrestling coaches also helped me. It was big. If I didn’t have those people, I probably wouldn’t have wrestled and in turn I wouldn’t have fought. My life would have been completely different. Who knows where I’d be today. I’m very grateful, very fortunate. I realize a lot of people don’t get that opportunity to have people who look out for them or care for them.”
Espinosa (14-6) looks to get back in the win column against Perez (22-5) at UFC Raleigh on Jan. 25. The event is headlined by heavy-hitting heavyweights Curtis Blaydes and Junior dos Santos. Rafael dos Anjos vs. Michael Chiesa serves as the co-main event.