It might have been the 2007 fight between Georges St-Pierre and Matt Serra, won by Serra in a monumental upset, that lit the fire.
It might have been the 2008 return match, won by St-Pierre, one of MMA’s all-time greats.
All Albuquerque’s Billy Ray Valdez knows is that, since then, he’s wanted to be a professional MMA fighter.
“It’s my life’s goal. It’s my dream,” Valdez said on Wednesday in a phone interview, four days before his scheduled heavyweight fight against Hobbs’ Erik Jimenez on an all-amateur FightWorld card at FIT-NHB, his home gym.
Yet, at 27, Valdez is a patient man. He won’t turn pro, he said, until he and his coaches at FIT decide he’s ready.
In the meantime, his job as a delivery driver for Walgreens pays the bills.
“First things first,” he said. “I need to focus on this upcoming fight and win, have a good performance here.
“(My coaches) would like to see me have a couple more (amateur) fights before turn I pro, just so we can work out a lot of the kinks in my game so when I do turn pro I’m not trying to figure it out.”
The Valdez-Jimenez fight is one of 16 scheduled on Saturday’s card. FIT-NHB coach and matchmaker Jon Judy said every active gym in the Albuquerque area is represented, plus others from the Rocky Mountain-Southwest region.
After watching one or both of the St-Pierre-Serra fights, Valdez whetted his appetite for combat sports while wrestling for Atrisco Heritage in 2011-12. He later did some amateur boxing. He brings a 2-2 amateur MMA record into Saturday’s fight but is riding the wave of his Oct. 9, 2021, victory by second-round TKO over previously unbeaten Tyrique Ransom on a King of the Cage card in Niagara Falls, New York.
“That win taught me a lot of valuable lessons,” Valdez said. “Keeping my composure, being smart and tactical in my performance.
“I believe I’m capable of a lot of great stuff when I’m in the ring. It’s just making sure I don’t get emotional when I fight.”
Valdez said he has lost some 30 pounds since weighing in at 265 pounds for the Ransom fight.
“I just feel tip-top,” he said.
Jimenez, Valdez’s scheduled opponent, has no listed record. But Valdez expects a tough go.
“(Judy) said he’s a roughneck, so obviously you have to be a tough guy to work that type of job, working on an oil rig,” he said. “There’s nothing I’m overlooking. He’s gonna be a tough fight, and it’s gonna be fun.”
SHE’S OK: Albuquerque UFC strawweight Michelle Waterson (18-9) is booked for a July 16 card, site to be announced, against Brazil’s Amanda Lemos (11-2-1).
In March, Waterson withdrew from a scheduled fight against Brazil’s Amanda Ribas – explaining emotionally on Instagram that she’d suffered an undisclosed but potentially career-ending injury.
Now, Waterson says, it’s all good.
“Go time baby!” She posted last week. “July 16th!!!”
FIGHTING MOMS: Waterson is a parent with husband Joshua Gomez of daughter Araya, 11. She’s not the only New Mexico combat-sports mom who’ll be fighting in upcoming weeks.
• Albuquerque’s Amanda Lovato is a parent with ex-husband and MMA fighter Ray Borg of 4-year-old Anthony. Lovato (0-1-1 as a boxer, 2-7 as an MMA fighter but riding a two-fight win streak) is scheduled to face Randee Lyn Morales (4-4) in a six-round flyweight bout on a pro boxing card in Denver on June 4.
Morales is a Rio Rancho High graduate who lives in Denver.
• The night before in Salt Lake City, Bosque Farms boxer (and single mom of three boys) Katherine Lindenmuth (1-0) is scheduled to face Utah’s Maryguenn Velinga (3-2-2) in a flyweight fight.
Lindenmuth is 32. Velinga, twice a national Golden Gloves semifinalist as an amateur, is 40.