Member Since: 4/10/07
El Mirage city worker digs success as UFC fighter
By Rich Bolas, Today staff Your West Valley |
Yaotzin Meza’s two jobs are as different as night and day.
The Laveen resident spends his days as a utilities technician with the City of El Mirage Public Works Department. By his own account, the job entails a lot of digging.
At night, he hones his skills as a mixed martial artist, an ultimate fighter who has reached the UFC, the major leagues of the sport.
“I know what I signed up for, and I take it seriously,” said the 5-foot-9 Meza, who fights as a 135-pound bantamweight. “I’ve been elbowed in the face, kneed in the head. It’s a rough sport.”
Meza improved his overall record to 20-8 and notched his first victory in two bouts as a UFC fighter last month in Seattle.
During a televised card on Fox, Meza forced his opponent, John Albert, into submission in the second round.
“I had a mental edge before the fight even started because he was 1 pound over at the weigh-in,” Meza said. “If you can’t make weight, you didn’t do something right (in training).”
Because of the weight issues, Meza correctly anticipated his opponent would try to put an early end to the bout.
Albert came out with a first-round flurry, but Meza withstood the onslaught and put away a tired opponent in the second round.
“There’s a lot going on out there, but you have to learn to be patient,” said the 32-year-old Meza. “It’s funny, but I could feel him getting tired in the second round, and that’s when I took advantage.”
The victory kept Meza relevant in the UFC and also avenged his first UFC bout, a December loss in Australia to Chad Mendes, the No. 1 featherweight contender.
Meza took that fight on five days’ notice when another fighter dropped out. Instead of his usual 7½-week training regimen, Meza had days to prepare for the fight.
“The way I looked at it, if the UFC asks you to fight, you fight,” Meza said. “If I didn’t say yes, they might not ask the next time.”
Meza also took the bout with a heavy heart. His mother was ill with cancer, a fight that would eventually take her life.
“There was a lot going on,” said Meza, the married father of three boys. “Both of my parents have always supported what I do, so it was a tough time.”
Meza returned home from Australia and waited for another UFC opportunity.
When word arrived about the July bout in Seattle, it gave Meza a proper 3½ months to get ready for his next opponent.
Meza follows a strict regimen as part of his pre-fight preparation.
Strength and conditioning sessions are sandwiched around his city job, while his evenings are spent training at the MMA Lab in Glendale.
Proper nutrition is also just as important as training, said Meza, who often gets up to 168 pounds when he’s not preparing for a bout.
Each morning during training, he starts off with a broccoli-carrot juice concoction, followed by egg whites and chicken.
His wife packs his lunch, which consists of a chicken breast with brown rice. For dinner, there’s more chicken, fish or turkey.
“That’s really the tough part,” Meza said. “I’m sitting down for dinner with my family and they’re having spaghetti or pizza, and all I can do is watch.
“Sometimes, I just have to walk away from the table.”
Meza attributed much of his skills as a mixed martial artist to his days as a high school wrestler. As a senior, the Flagstaff High School graduate placed third in the state in the 103-pound weight class.
“I’ve gotten to be a better striker, but with my wrestling background, I’m always comfortable taking my opponent to the ground,” said Meza, a native of Santa Ana, Calif.
David Williams, a UFC analyst, agreed with Meza’s self-assessment.
In his UFC blog, Williams wrote: “The strength of Meza’s game is on the ground. He’s decent at landing takedowns and does a good job of controlling his opponent from the top position.”
Meza also attributed his success to support from his family and employer.
His wife puts motivational stickers around the house.
One of his favorites is posted on the bathroom mirror and designed to help him eat right: “Food is for fuel only.”
At work, his co-workers cheer him on and his supervisors allow him to adjust his schedule when he’s training for a bout.
With his July victory, Meza now waits for word of his next bout, which should be around November.
After a week off following his victory, he has resumed training and waits for his chance to climb the ladder of contention.
“At 32, I think I’m a better fighter than I was at 24,” Meza said.
“I feel I’m at my best mentally and physically.”