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BOSTON – A successful UFC debut is certainly an accomplishment for any fighter. But for Julio Arce, it meant the crowning achievement of what started as an unlikely journey.
“I was 5-(foot)-5, weighing 200 pounds at the age of 14,” a giddy Arce told reporters backstage at TD Garden in Boston. “(I) just liked to eat junk food, play video games. Then I just started training.”
It was his sister, Arce said, who introduced him to martial arts. And thus began the unsteady road that led him to Saturday’s UFC 220.
“I have no words to describe it,” Arce said. “It’s a dream come true.”
A few moving parts had to come together en route to Arce’s UFC debut. Luck – for him, anyway – played a small role when, earlier this month, injury forced Charles Rosa out of his meeting with Dan Ige. But then it was Arce who had racked up 13 wins in MMA. It was Arce who had stayed prepared. He was the one who could make the 145-pound limit despite the short notice.
And so Arce was able to grab an opportunity that had narrowly eluded him a few times before.
“At some points, it felt like it was – I wouldn’t say snatched, but like it just got away from me,” Arce said. “(On) ‘(Dana White:) Lookin’ for a Fight,’ I saw people get their contracts. And although I dominated my match, it didn’t go the way I wanted it to play out. So I didn’t get that chance.
“Then I had (Dana White’s Contender Series 5). I got my second round TKO, but I didn’t get the contract. And way back when I was fighting at bantamweight, I was offered a fight in Canada when I was 2 or 3-0, and that chance didn’t happen.”
But, the way Arce sees it, everything happens for a reason. So he kept his head up, waiting for his time to come. On Saturday, it did – a mere three-hour drive from him, no less. Arce made the most of it, adding a sixth win to his current streak with the unanimous nod over Ige.
“The stars aligned,” Arce said. “It couldn’t have been a better place.
“… The moment I got the call, I had a smile from ear to ear. Then even on the weigh-in – my guy came in with his hands up in front of me. And I was just smiling like this, and I’m like ‘I’m just excited to be here. That’s it.’ It’s amazing. It’s amazing.”
Arce’s journey from a “pudgy fat kid” led him to the UFC stage. That was his dream. It may not be for everyone, but the featherweight still hopes his journey through martial arts helps inspire others who want to make a change in their own lives.
“Go do it,” Arce said. “Go train. You can do it. There’s no such thing as being too overweight or not being athletic enough. Just get in there and do it. You’re going to see how far you’re going to get. Just work hard and don’t give up.”
To hear more from an elated Arce on his road to the UFC, check out the video above.
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