Fear, says Albuquerque MMA featherweight Dan Argueta, is his most powerful motivator.
No, Argueta does not fear any opponent – in this case Nick Aguirre (7-0), whom Argueta (8-1) is scheduled to face Saturday on a UFC card in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Nor does Argueta fear the pain that accompanies his chosen sport.
“I’m not afraid of getting kicked in the mouth,” the Jackson-Wink fighter said this week in a phone interview. “I’m not afraid of getting punched in the face or slammed on my head.”
Specifically, it’s not even losing a fight that Argueta fears – though that concern is part and parcel.
It is the fear of not reaching his goals, he said, that gnaws at him and pushes him forward.
“I’m so afraid of that,” he said. “… That’s where the hunger comes from. It makes me sick to think that I won’t accomplish what I set out to.”
Argueta grew up in the Chicago area, wrestled at Carl Sandburg High School in Orland Park, Illinois and in college at Wisconsin-Parkside.
He was back in Chicago, working with wrestling guru Israel “Izzy” Martinez, when longtime UFC and former Jackson-Wink fighter Cub Swanson came to visit.
“(Swanson) came out to Chicago one winter to wrestle, to hang out and train,” Argueta said, “And when he did, he asked to train with me. He asked me if I wanted to fight (MMA). …. I jumped in there, and Cub punched me twice in the face.
“It was the first time I’d ever been punched in the face. I got two black eyes and I said, ‘OK, I’m doing this.'”
Martinez, who has worked with Holly Holm and many other Jackson-Wink fighters, was also instrumental in getting Argueta to Albuquerque. The 29-year-old’s entire MMA career has been charted by Jackson-Wink and by Swanson, with whom Argueta spends time training in Southern California.Â
Those associations give him, Argueta said, the best of both worlds.
“I have the best coaches in the world (Jackson-Wink’s Greg Jackson, Mike Winkeljohn, et al), who coached my mentor (Swanson) all the way to the top,” he said.Â
In Swanson, he has a teacher, friend and role model who knows the ins and outs, the wins and losses, the blessings and hardships of the sport.
“Everyone knows who he is,” Argueta said. “Everyone loves him. Everyone knows why he made it so far, and he’s been a huge inspiration for me.”
Argueta signed with the UFC after defeating Diego Silva for the LFA bantamweight title last May 6. Exactly a year before, he’d lost to Ricky Turcio on The Ultimate Fighter 29. That fight, labeled an exhibition, does not appear on Argueta’s record.Â
He made his UFC debut against veteran Damon Jackson, taking the fight on short notice, and lost by unanimous decision on June 4.Â
Argueta enters Saturday’s fight as a solid betting favorite against Aguirre, a late replacement for Argueta’s original opponent and whose unbeaten record has been compiled against lesser opposition.Â
But there’s that fear, driving him. Learning only on Wednesday that Aguirre and not Isaac Dulgarian would be his opponent, he dived into his homework
“Obviously, this is high stakes,” he said. “So I can’t be ignorant of the fact that (Aguirre) is here for some reason. … I did all the research and then I watched his fights.
“I was like, ‘Oh, he’s got some skills.’ But he’s not fought at the level I’ve been forced to fight at.”
As for the fear, Argueta said, it has done its job once he steps into the cage.
“Then,” he said, “I just have to go do it.”
BKFC: Albuquerque’s Dodson brothers, John and Eric, are scheduled to make return appearances for Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship when that organization comes to Tingley Coliseum on Feb. 17.
The Dodsons both won impressively when BKFC made its New Mexico debut at the Rio Rancho Events Center on Aug. 27.
Also returning is FIT-NHB fighter Jayme Hinshaw, who also made a successful bare-knuckle debut in August.
As previously reported, the Feb. 17 card includes a featured bout between two New Mexico combat-sports legends: Albuquerque MMA fighter Diego Sanchez and Las Cruces world boxing champion Austin Trout.