Although unknown to the five-year-old or those around him as he ran the South Florida streets, Jose Vega‘s destiny to become a fighter was laid out for him virtually at birth.
“When I was a kid living in Florida my uncles and my dad used to get drunk together a lot,” said Vega. “One night we were outside, and there was this kid next door that always used to fight with my cousin, and they said, “We’ll give you a dollar if you go over there and punch that kid in the face”, so I went over there and punched him in the face and we got to fighting.”
Close to 15 years later Vega found himself pouring over MMA fight videos, while at the same time going on a tear through the amateur and professional ranks in his backyard of Missouri with literally not a single day of formal training under his belt.
All-in-all, Vega somehow managed to string together seven victories as a professional prior to ever stepping foot inside an MMA gym with all of his wins coming by way of submission, before a call from Bellator Fighting Championships recently gave the naturally gifted Vega the incentive he had been looking for to completely change his approach to the sport.
“I’m more complete now than I’ve ever been before,” boasted Vega in the days leading up to his bantamweight tournament fight with longtime rival Danny Tims at Bellator 26 this Thursday in Kansas City. “Up until right before my most recent win over Jarrod Card with Bellator I had been training myself by watching fight tapes and instructionals. Now I finally have someone watching over me telling me if what I’m doing is right or wrong.”
And the results spoke for themselves as Vega put the favored Card to sleep with a crushing punch that catapulted the budding 135 pound prospect directly into his current place in the Season 3 Bellator Bantamweight Tournament.
Standing in front of Vega this Thursday evening in the Bellator cage is a man that is far from a stranger to the self-taught Kansas City bantamweight – Tims.
The pair of Missouri-based fan-favorites first met at the amateur level in a closely contested battle that saw Tims’ hand raised in victory when the dust had a chance to settle. However, Vega didn’t exactly agree with the judges’ decision, stating, “Our first fight was in his hometown, and I don’t like to be a sore loser, but I got him to admit that I beat him right after that fight. I ended up losing a real close decision, but we all know why they gave him that, because it was in his hometown.”
There are two sides to every story, and Tims’ side to this one is that Vega is “crazy.” Tims states that he dominated the fight between the two from the beginning to the sound of the final bell.
The second time the pair met, the result couldn’t have been any more different.
“I fought him for the second time in the finals of a tournament in Sturgis,” said Vega. “In the second round he reversed me while I was ground and pounding him and I upkicked him right before he got up and he just turned around and tapped on the cage.
“I think I broke him mentally because he couldn’t take me down or do anything. He just quit.”
Again, Tims has a slightly different recollection of events when it comes to his second meeting with Vega, stating that dehydration at the end of a single-evening elimination tournament as the reason he tapped out, and stresses that the defeat had nothing to do with him breaking mentally.
This Thursday evening from the Kansas City Power and Light District, the score will be settled once and for all as Vega meets Tims for the third time in what is undoubtedly the biggest fight of either fighter’s professional career.
Vega will be entering the bout riding a wave of confidence and vows to silence his rival with his actions in the cage at Bellator 26.
“I’m sure that I can put him to sleep the same way I did to Jarrod Card if he decides to stand with me and I also believe I can submit him if the fight goes to the ground,” said Vega. “All of his submission wins are rear-naked chokes. You don’t see him throwing up triangles or armbars. It makes him one-dimensional. I’ve submitted people with triangles, gogoplatas, armbars, keylocks and a variety of other submissions, so I feel like I have a lot more options at my disposal in the submission department.
“There’s no way he’s going to take me down and grind me out. I see the same fighter that I fought at amateur. I don’t think he has any tools he can beat me with.”