Luis Palomino's star has been on the rise ever since his World Series of Fighting (WSOF) debut, where he used his striking power to finish Jorge Patino via knockout in round two, defeating a nearly 20-year veteran of the sport.
"Baboon" is no young blood, either, having been on the professional circuit since 2006 and amassing some previous television exposure through high-profile Bellator fights with the likes of Yves Edwards and Pat Curran.
After getting a second straight WSOF win via devastating knockout, promotion president Ray Sefo offered Palomino a lightweight title shot against the undefeated "Highlight" reel himself in Justin Gaethje. Palomino accepted, the fight takes place March 28th at the Comerica Theatre in Phoenix, and Palomino talked to MMAmania.com about his big opportunity.
"(I'm) fully loaded brother, fully loaded. Fully confident, ready to go over there and just get my belt, bring it back home. I'm counting on (Gaethje's) aggressiveness. I'm by nature a counter fighter so, the way that he fights is just perfect for me, you know? I think he's very young, very explosive, very strong, but he's lacking a lot of experience which I carry and I'm going to be showing that on March 28th in the cage."
A previous stint in Bellator MMA didn't go as well as he (or his fans) would have liked, which Palomino chalks up to cutting too far down to featherweight and not being a good fit in the promotion in general.
"I never had a good feel for Bellator. I just didn't like the way they did things, the match-ups and stuff like that. Fighting at 145 just wasn't the greatest feeling. I always felt comfortable at 155. The only reason I ever dropped to 145 was because of that tournament."
Palomino finds World Series of Fighting a good fit for him, fighting at the right weight and for people he has a good personal feel for, like WSOF President Ray Sefo.
"World Series of Fighting came along and it's just been a blessing man, it's been great. I've been able to show the world who I am. You feel more well taken care of, more appreciated. To have somebody that's actually felt our pain, and felt our hard work, and been through it to take care of us ... that's definitely a big (part) of the success."
Fighting came natural to Palomino, first getting into boxing when he moved from Peru to the U.S., then doing a little street fighting when he moved to Miami, until MMA showed him a better use for his skills.
"I was born in Peru, and I came to California when I was about 10 years old. Then I came to Miami when I was about 14. In Peru I was just playing soccer. When I came to California I was boxing, and when I came to Miami the boxing just wasn't the same, that's when the street fights started happening."
Transitioning to MMA got Palomino to where he is today, and if he defeats Justin Gaethje he wants to be an ACTIVE champion.
"I would say three to four fights a year, three being the minimum. I think if I'm healthy and injury free, I don't have off days. I hear fighters talk about 'Oh I'm off camp right now.' No, we don't believe in that in MMA Masters. We train throughout the entire year, we don't have breaks. So if I'm healthy and injury free and the show has fights going on, I would like to be a part of it."
The beginning of what Palomino hopes will be a busy 2015 is March 28th at the Comerica Theatre in Phoenix, Arizona, live on NBC Sports. The complete audio of our interview is below, and MMAmania.com will bring you comprehensive fight coverage all week long.
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