Nick Urso drives a 2005 model car with only 40,000 miles on it. That’s kind of how he sees himself.
At 30, Urso is not a young MMA fighter. Yet, he’s been fighting for only seven years and has had just 10 professional fights. Pro fight No. 11 is scheduled for Saturday against Jordan Espinosa on Jackson’s MMA Series XVII at Buffalo Thunder Resort & Casino in Pojoaque.
“I’ve been taking care of myself,” Urso, a flyweight (125 pounds), said this week in a phone interview. “I’m garage tested, car covered, synthetic oil, the whole nine yards.”
The Albuquerque-based Urso’s low mileage as a fighter isn’t totally a matter of choice.
In April 2014, on a Legacy FC card at Route 66 Casino, Urso faced Albuquerque’s Ray Borg on a fight widely seen as a fight-off for a UFC contract. Borg won by second-round submission (rear naked choke) and promptly signed with the UFC.
Urso (8-2) has fought only once since then, defeating Josh Montoya by unanimous decision on Jackson’s MMA Series XIV a year and four days ago.
Though a UFC contract is virtually every MMA fighter’s dream, there is no shortage of other promotional options: Bellator, World Series of Fighting, Legacy, RFA, et al.
For Urso, said Jackson’s MMA Association president Ricky Kottenstette, either those organizations weren’t a good fit for him or he was deemed not a good fit for them.
“We’ve tried,” Kottenstette said. “(But the answer is always) ‘We don’t have anything, we don’t have anybody locally to fight you, your record’s too big.’
“I think that’s part of the frustration with Nick, is that the one chance he did get against Borg was, one guy’s on cloud nine and the other guy’s sitting on his ass.”
If Urso is truly frustrated, he doesn’t show it.
“There haven’t been any great opportunities, and I’ve just been waiting for some good opportunities, ” he said. “I haven’t been in any rush or desperation to fight on any low-caliber shows, and the 125-pound division outside of the UFC isn’t very prominent.”
Saturday’s fight against Espinosa (7-4), he said, is another chance to show the UFC what he can do. Espinosa comes in with a three-fight winning streak, including an upset over previously unbeaten Rafael de Freitas.
“I feel like anytime I step into the cage, it’s kind of an audition for the UFC and for whoever’s watching,” Urso said.
“This guy (Espinosa) wanted to fight me, and if somebody wants to fight me I’m all for it. He brings something to the table, and he has a decent record. The timing was right, the location was right.”
Saturday’s fight also is, simply, a chance to fight for the first time in more than a year.
“I love fighting in New Mexico,” he said. “I love fighting on the Jackson’s Series.”
Born in Chicago, Urso moved with his family to Florida when he was 13. He relocated to Albuquerque about seven years ago and quickly decided there was no better place to pursue an MMA career. He trains at Jackson-Wink.
“If there was a better place that I thought would be more efficient and productive for me, I would do that, because you have to be selfish and you have to do what’s best for you,” he said.
“I really feel like this was best for me, and I feel like there’s a lot of people that agree that it’s best for them as well.”
Though he never fought MMA before coming to Albuquerque, Urso comes from a fighting family.
“My dad’s 65, and he still teaches kick-boxing in the garage,” he said. “It’s always been like that, since I was born. I learned how to punch before I learned how to throw a football or a baseball or shoot a basketball.”
One day, regardless of the mileage on the vehicle, fighting will no longer be an option. Urso has given that prospect some thought.
“Right now, all I care about is the fight game,” he said. “I love fighting, I love competing, I love training. But I also very much enjoy teaching and coaching.
“… That’s something I currently do and I probably will do until I’m no longer able to.”
In the meantime, there’s plenty of fuel in the tank.
BOXING: Albuquerque welterweight Josh Torres (15-4-2, seven KOs) posted on Facebook Wednesday that he has verbally agreed to a fight against former world champion Zab Judah (42-9, 29 KOs) in Las Vegas, Nev. The fight is scheduled for March 12.
Judah, 38, hasn’t fought since December 2013. Two scheduled comeback fights were scrapped because of injuries to his opponents.
… Rio Rancho welterweight Brian Mendoza (13-0, nine KOs) defeated Joel Vargas (4-15-2) by third-round TKO Saturday in Dodge City, Kansas.