"I'm going to do everything! If he goes to the ground with me, he can't handle my ground and pound. If he goes to the ground, he's going to die on the ground," stated flyweight Alexis "The Exorcist" Vila, who talked about his upcoming fight this Saturday, January 19, with Joshua "The Gremlin" Sampo. Vila makes his return to the cage under the CFA Banner at Bank United Center in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. After a run at Bantamweight and fighting all the way to the finals of last spring's Bellator tournament, the challenge of being a true flyweight and fighting men bigger than him finally took its toll when he suffered the only 2 losses of his carrier. Now back at his natural weight of 125 pounds, Vila's poised for his return to the cage and more importantly to garner a UFC contract and pursue his long-time goal of becoming a UFC Champion. Check out what he had to say!
SWD: How has this training camp been for you and how's your health?
AV: My training camp is wonderful. I've been training hard and had a great camp, so I'm ready.
SWD: What's different about this training camp? What have you been the most focused on?
AV: We're working everything. It's not one thing specific.
SWD: We haven't seen you in the cage since last April when you were fighting in Bellator. The good part about that is it gives you a lot of time to improve. What would you say that layoff has helped you with the most?
AV: You know what? Taking this rest for 10 months has helped me get better. I'm hungrier. As far as my fighting, it's made me more patient, to think more, and not be crazy; to be able to dictate the fight the way I want it to go.
SWD: Any chance of ring rust?
AV: (Without hesitation) No!
SWD: Your long time striking coach Manolo Lopez is one of the best in the business. What are the biggest elements of your striking that he's helped you with and how does he train that's different than other fighters?
ML: Manolo does a lot of crazy things. He puts so much stuff into my striking game and it's over and over and over; so many different elements of striking until it just becomes part of my life.
SWD: What's funny is that he says you're crazy?
AV: Him too!
SWD: (Laughing) You're not even going to try and defend it. Not all striking coaches will spar with their fighters. Manolo does though. Is he a pain in the ass to spar with?
AV: Sometimes I have to say sorry, sorry, sorry. I punch, I do this, I do that, it gets crazy. He knows me, I know him, so it makes it a little hard. He makes me find a way. I see everything now. I see all the kicks, all the punches. I see everything. There's nothing new that's going to happen in the fight that I haven't seen because of sparring with him.
SWD: As an athlete, you look at least 10 years younger than you are at 42 years old
AV: 41 (laughing).
SWD: Sorry, I get it though. At 41, how have you been able to still have a rising career? Most guys are fading by their mid 30's.
AV: You know what? I have to thank God for giving me the strength, the health, and for being 41 and being the way that I feel. I feel like a young guy.
SWD: This is the first time you're fighting at flyweight in a while. How do you feel about coming back to that?
AV: I've never lost at flyweight, so I feel good. Right now, I'm about 131 pounds, so just a little bit to go. I feel super strong in this weight class. People can see my level of wrestling more in this weight class.
SWD: Your opponent is Joshua Sampo. He's 8-2 with 4 wins by submission. How much do you know about him?
AV: I don't know much about Joshua Sampo except his game is not going to work with me. He has 2 losses; now he's going to have 3.
SWD: You, on the other hand, have 7 wins by KO and you're a 2-time world wrestling champion. If you're in control of this fight, does it go to the ground?
AV: I'm going to do everything! If he goes to the ground with me, he can't handle my ground and pound. If he goes to the ground, he's going to die on the ground.
SWD: Any predictions for the fight?
AV: If he stands with me, I'm going to knock him out. If he goes to the ground, I'm going to knock him out. I'm not playin!
SWD: You and I had spoken a while ago about the UFC. What conversations have you had with them?
AV: The UFC has talked to my manager and they want me to win one or two fights at Flyweight because it's been a long time since I fought at this weight. I can't wait. I want to prove to the UFC, or to anyone that has the title, that I'm the best Flyweight in the world.
SWD: So it's kind of a gentlemen's agreement then?
AV: Probably after this fight, I should sign. I was supposed to fight in September, but I got injured.
SWD: With the excitement generated by Demetrious Johnson and John Dodson and the flyweight division, does that help to keep you motivated to make it to the big show?
AV: It motivates me a lot. I see people that were behind me and now they are superstars. But they know I'm still here. There is no way these people can beat me.
SWD: Recently, in fact yesterday, you lost your father to a long illness. First off, please except my condolences. I've been there and it's a helluva time and moment in anyone's life. Is that event something that you will use as inspiration for this fight or have you even had time to give that some thought?
AV: This is my edge for the fight. My dad this is what he liked me to do. I had hoped that he would see this fight. I had hoped to go to Cuba after this fight and show it to him and say, "Papi, this was my last fight," but he didn't give me that chance. But I know he is going to protect me and I dedicate this fight to my dad.
SWD: This has been a long journey for you and now the UFC has flyweights and you're close to getting there. Why do you still fight and why is this still a goal?
AV: I love to fight. I want to compete. My goal is to be a UFC Champion and I'm not going to quit on my career until that happens.
SWD: Anything else that you want to share with our FightHype.com readers?
AV: No matter how hard the times are, I'm still here. I'm going to prove that 41 years old is only a number.
SWD: Thanks Alexis.
AV: You're welcome Stuart