The Ultimate Fighting Championship's Bantamweight division is currently in lockdown while interim champion Renan Barao sits on the sideline, waiting for Dominick Cruz to get healthy and defend his title, one youngster doesn't mind the wait whatsoever.
That would be 22 year old Erik Perez, the only 100% Mexican fighter on the roster and one of the brightest up-and-coming 135 pound prospects.
In two fights inside the Octagon thus far, Perez has scored two first round finishes including the fastest knockout in UFC (or WEC) bantamweight history during his last outing, a thrashing of Ken Stone this past August.
Still very young to the game, the Greg Jackson-trained fighter is content to bide his time and develop gradually inside the Octagon. After taking consecutive fights on extremely short notice (two weeks and four weeks respectively), he'll finally be getting a full training camp for his next bout, a UFC 155 contest against Byron Bloodworth at the end of the year.
Perez spoke with MMAmania.com in an e-mail interview (via vfdsports.com) about his motivation for fighting, the pressures of being a Mexican fighter in the UFC and his goals of being a champion in this exclusive interview.
Check it out:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): For your first two fights in the UFC, you had two and four weeks each to prepare. How good do you think you could be if you were able to have a full training camp before a fight?
Erik Perez: I would obviously be more prepared and stronger, but I always try to keep myself ready to fight. As a fighter, you always have to be ready.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You've fought very regularly on your way up to the UFC, often one month apart. Can you discuss your fighter's mentality of always being ready to take another fight?
Erik Perez: After all of my fights, I come right back to the gym next Monday. Like I said, you always have to be ready, and that type of mentality makes me ready for anything.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You've mentioned that discovering Sanda and martial arts when you were 14 "saved you." Were you a troublemaker as a kid? What do you fear would have happened if you hadn't discovered the calming nature of martial arts?
Erik Perez: I probably would be in a lot of trouble right now (laughs).
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): One of your mottos is not to believe everything is easy in life, that you should work hard even when it's difficult. Can you talk about any specific struggles you've dealt with on your way to the UFC?
Erik Perez: Life can be very tough at times, but I use everything I've been through to make me a better fighter.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Do you have any pre-fight rituals or superstitions that you do before your fights?
Erik Perez: I'm Catholic, so I wear my Rosary and do the sign of the Cross. I also wear the same compression shorts each fight, but I do wash them!
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): How do you spend your free time? What do you like to do to take your mind off of fighting?
Erik Perez: Training. For me, there's no free time.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Do you ever see yourself fighting Muay Thai professionally again or will that have to wait until your MMA career is over?
Erik Perez: Muay Thai was definitely a good experience, but I'm only going to do MMA. That's where my future is, and that's where I want to win my titles.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Your nickname "El Goyito" was because you looked so young when you started fighting. Do your teammates ever joke with you about still looking so young?
Erik Perez: Right now, I don't look young. Sometimes now, the guys call me El Gordito, because I'm a little heavier than normal.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): With a 2-0 record in the UFC bantamweight division, where do you see yourself right now? What are your goals?
Erik Perez: I want to be champion and that's why I train all the time. That's my dream, and my ultimate goal as a fighter.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): What do you use as motivation when the training gets tough?
Erik Perez: Thinking of helping my parents is all the motivation that I need.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Has anything funny or out of the ordinary happened to you when you were training at Jackson's? People love a good training story.
Erik Perez: When you hang out with Cowboy Cerrone like I do, everything is crazy and fun.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): The UFC has tried to push Mexican fighters before like Roger Huerta (and most recently Cain Velasquez), do you think you could get a similar push if you continue to win?
Erik Perez: I don't get too concerned with things like that. My job is to fight, and I just try to be a better fighter every day.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): With so few Mexican fighters in the UFC, do you feel a responsibility to represent your country well and raise awareness for mixed martial arts?
Erik Perez: I feel very responsible because I'm the only 100% Mexican in the UFC. Every time I step into the cage, it's one big responsibility.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Your second professional fight took place in Mexico City. What would it mean to you to get to fight in Mexico again, this time while with the UFC?
Erik Perez: It would feel amazing. If the UFC goes to Mexico and I can fight over there, it would mean everything to me. I take great pride in representing my country.
Erik would like to thank all his coaches and teammates at Jackson-Winkeljohn MMA with special thanks to coach Mike Valle, who has helped him get to this country and succeed in the UFC. He'd also like to thank his sponsors MusclePharm, SafeAuto Insurance, and Bodybuilding.com and also his managers John Fosco and Elie Deshe at VFD Sports Marketing. You can follow him on Twitter @Goyito_Perez.