Three months ago, Vince Morales was in a tough bind.
After dropping a winnable, high-stakes fight on one of the biggest stages in mixed martial arts, Morales didn’t have a clear path to follow.
On Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series, the 28-year-old fighter was choked unconscious in a thrilling back-and-forth affair against Domingo Pilarte. A UFC contract was awarded to Pilarte following the bout—the exact contract Morales expected to take home himself.
Instead of hanging his head, Morales returned to action right away at Bellator 205 in Boise, Idaho. “Vandetta” didn’t skip a beat, returning to form and putting on a crisp striking display en route to a decision victory over Justin Hugo.
Mere weeks later, the opportunity Morales had missed out on back in July resurfaced.
“I was actually just finishing up a workout,” Morales said in an interview with FloCombat. “We had a long, two-and-a-half-hour session that day. I just happened to grab my phone and see I had a few missed calls from my manager with Iridium, Jason [House].
“I was like, ‘What’s going on here?’ So I called back immediately and he’s like, ‘Hey, what are you doing?’ I was like, ‘Uh, just finishing training.’ He’s like, ‘Well, I hope you’re ready to get back to it. I got you in. Are you ready? We’re going to China for this fight.’”
Next Saturday, Nov. 24, Morales will make his UFC debut in Beijing against Chinese phenom Song Yadong. Despite achieving a massive life goal, Morales is trying to minimize his excitement and zone in on the task at hand.
“The first thing that pops into my head is that I’ve got to get to work,” Morales said. "The bantamweight division is stacked right now. I hear 'UFC bantamweight,' I know I need to get ready for everything.”
The short notice shouldn’t be too much of an issue, Morales said. The cousin of fellow UFC bantamweight Ricky Simón stays active both in and out of camp.
“Literally right after my last fight on Sept. 21, I got right back in the gym,” Morales said. “So, I’ve been training like I had a fight anyways.
“As far as on the mental side, I don’t have to think about the dude for as long. I’ve been training like I’ve been in fight camp anyways.”
Looking over his opponent, Morales can’t help but applaud the 29-year-old.
“He’s very impressive,” Morales said. “He’s a solid up-and-coming prospect. That’s exactly the kind of fight I want though. The tougher the opponent is, I feel like I perform better.
“I’m looking to shock a whole lot of people, because I know he’s going to be the favorite going into this. He’s a super skilled dude, and I’m stoked for this opportunity. I think it’s going to be a great fight.”
Like his Contender Series bout, Morales believes fans would make a mistake using his fight for a bathroom break. The Tony Fryklund underling presumes his fight against Yadong could very well win Fight of the Night.
“High volume, fast-paced, explosive action is the main way I think about it,” Morales said. “I just think we’re going to be hitting each other until somebody goes down really.”