What a night it was for Mario Bautista in the Lone Star State. Picking up your first UFC win is a truly special thing. Getting that win and receiving your first post-fight bonus is the cherry on top.
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Bautista defeated Jin Soo Son in a highly entertaining bantamweight bout during the preliminary card of UFC San Antonio via unanimous decision. It was a much different situation for the 26-year-old who made his Octagon debut at UFC on ESPN+ 1 on less than a week’s notice, taking on the surging Cory Sandhagen in Brooklyn. Sandhagen would pick up a first-round submission victory in the first-ever televised bout on ESPN.
The debut loss did not deter Bautista, it just fueled his fire for his next opportunity in San Antonio.
“It was just all crazy seeing it all come together,” Bautista told The Body Lock. “All of the hard work (I put into the training camp), to get a nice payday at the end of it, it was all worth it.
“The fight in New York, it was a lot of getting familiar with how everything ran, and the actual fight itself. Being in the cage, once I got in there, I did feel comfortable. The second time through, I felt even more comfortable and more prepared. I felt awesome. I had six weeks to train for this one, had a good game plan and I just felt very comfortable in there. I had a great corner with me this time, it was perfect.”
Bautista and Son left everything in the cage on Saturday night. It was a true war of attrition between the young bantamweights looking to pick up that elusive first UFC win. Despite the pressure to win that comes with being a UFC fighter, accompanied by a tough opponent that won’t go away, Bautista admits that he had himself a grand ol’ time in Texas.
“It was super fun,” Bautista explained. “About halfway through the first round, once I figured we might go 15 (minutes), I just knew I had to put the output. It was fun. Son is a real tough guy. He let me showcase my skills for 15 minutes and it was a heck of a night.
“His chin surprised me. I hit him pretty hard and he was just standing there.”
First #1: The announcement
Prior to the fight with Sandhagen in January, Bautista hadn’t tasted defeat since his second amateur fight in 2012. Fighting in strong organizations like Tachi PF, LFA, and Combate Americas, Bautista was no stranger to bigger stages and high-level competition. With only a few days to prepare for Sandhagen, it was a shot Bautista was willing to take to become a member of the UFC roster.
The fight game does not always bring scenarios that are ideal. There is always risk, but there is also reward. In two Octagon appearances, Bautista has experienced both parts of the spectrum. After a hard-fought 15-minute battle, getting his arm raised to the sky by referee Kerry Hatley was a moment that put Bautista at ease.
“Oh man, it was such a relief,” Bautista said. “We were both in a tough position, we both had (to fight) top-10 guys, now. We both had tough debuts and I just kind of felt like we were almost fighting for our jobs. There was just such a relief. I just felt like I wanted it more. That’s what I was feeling after the fight.”
First #2: The bonus
If you ask a group of fans who watched, or attended the UFC San Antonio card on Saturday what they thought of it, there would probably be a strong consensus of people who would say the event, as a whole, was a bit lackluster. Bautista and Son’s battle left a fantastic footprint in San Antonio, but the bouts that followed it weren’t the rock ’em, sock ’em robot type fights fans expect to see. There were nine straight fights at one point that went to a decision, an event record-tying 10 fights overall that went to the judges’ scorecards.
Of those 10 fights, none were more entertaining than the second fight of the night between Bautista and Son. After picking up the win and getting his hand raised, Bautista was living in the moment. It wasn’t until he got to the back and the praise started heading his way did the thought of picking up a bonus cross his mind. Once it did, it was hard to ignore.
“Everyone just started complimenting me saying it was a good fight, then they started making remarks like ‘Fight of the Night, Fight of the Night’, and I got to thinking,” Bautista said. “I was thinking that it could be. We still have 10 fights to go, so hopefully nothing crazy happens. By each fight, my confidence grew and by the end of the night, I figured we had the bonus.”
Bouncing back after an Octagon debut loss, picking up that elusive first UFC win, picking up an extra $50,000 for a highly entertaining performance and that overall sense of relief added together creates an incredible performance. It also sets the career achievement bar quite high for Bautista.
“Oh, absolutely,” Bautista said about Saturday being the greatest night of his career. “First win in the UFC against a tough opponent, a nice pay check, man, it’s the best one so far.”
The next ‘first’ for Mario Bautista?
After a 15 minute slugfest, Bautista is going to need some time to recover from his bumps and bruises before he can get ready for his next fight. The MMA Lab trained fighter is hoping to get another fight under his belt in 2019 and isn’t opposed to standing across the Octagon from anybody on the bantamweight roster.
Bautista isn’t calling out a specific fighter because that’s not his style. He does, however, have a different kind of a callout; more of a request. After picking up some items on his list of firsts, Bautista would like to add another one for his next appearance.
“I haven’t looked at anything specific yet, but if there’s any card in Vegas towards the end of the year, I would love to fight in Vegas,” Bautista said. “I’m from a small town about seven hours north of Vegas, so I think that would be awesome to stay close to home. Hopefully the fight that I had was worthy enough for me to fight in Vegas on a nice card.”
Luckily for Bautista, he may get that opportunity as UFC 245 will be held at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Dec. 14.