TORONTO - Despite competing for more than 11 years, Ivan Menjivar’s next fight will mark a first in his career.
The Montreal bantamweight no longer has to juggle MMA with a side job.
“It’s really good to have the time to train full-time and have a good time with the family, too,” Menjivar said over the phone. “I wake up at 7 a.m. and feel good. Before, I used to work at three or four in the morning. It’s good to sleep and have time with the family. I’m training all the time, so it’s like a full-time job.
“When you start MMA, you need to have a second life because — it’s not a dangerous sport — but it’s a tough sport. You can injure yourself when you spar in the gym.”
Menjivar meets TUF 14 alum John Albert in the first main-card bout of UFC on FUEL TV 1 in Omaha, Neb., on Wednesday. The card, which will air in Canada on Rogers Sportsnet, will be headlined by a welterweight tilt between Jake Ellenberger and Diego Sanchez. The preliminary bouts will be streamed on Facebook.
The 29-year-old Salvadoran-Canadian, who trains alongside welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre at TriStar gym, previously held down a security gig at Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport. Unfortunately for Menjivar, the choice to leave wasn’t his.
“Transport Canada gave the contract to a different company, Securitas,” Menjivar said. “Three days before Nov. 1, they sent me a letter, ‘We don’t need you. Thank you and good luck in your life.’ Just like that. No reason, no explanation. Along with me, another 10 people got fired for no reason. It’s not fair losing a job (like that).
“I’m lucky to have the fighting. But for my friends, it’s not fun losing a job for no reason.”
The silver lining is now Menjivar can dedicate himself solely to advancing his MMA career, which he walked away from following a split-decision loss to Bart Palaszewski in late 2006.
“I took a break because of injuries for more than three years and I had kids at the same time,” Menjivar said. “So it was a good time for me to take a break.”
Menjivar returned to the sport at W-1 MMA 5 on June 19, 2010, submitting Aaron Miller with a triangle choke in the first round. He was then scooped up by the WEC, where he lost an exciting split decision to Brad Pickett in December. Menjivar joined UFC when the rosters merged in early 2011.
Since then, he has put together a two-fight win streak inside the octagon. At UFC 129 in April, Menjivar broke Charlie Valencia’s nose with a vicious elbow and unloaded with punches for the stunning TKO victory. He followed it up by snagging a unanimous decision over Nick Pace at UFC 133 in August.
A win over Albert would move Menjivar another step closer to being ranked among the elite bantamweights in the world.
“I want to be in the top 10 (by the end of the year); that’s a realistic goal,” Menjivar said. “Second is to have more promotion and keep fighting. Right now I don’t have stable work, so I need to make money. I have to be honest.
“All UFC fights are good opportunities. I don’t want to put pressure on myself. A fight is a fight, but I think it’s a good opportunity to say to the world, ‘Look at me; I’m a good fighter. Keep your eyes on me.’”
As for Albert, after getting eliminated from TUF 14 by tournament winner John Dodson, he bounced back with an impressive TKO victory over Dustin Pague in December. Menjivar said he was impressed with Albert’s last performance.
“He’s young, he’s angry, he wants to prove to himself and everybody else that he’s a UFC fighter,” Menjivar said. “He got the chance to be on The Ultimate Fighter, he took it and he did a good job. Now me and him, we have to go in the cage and fight together and have fun. For me he’s just another opponent and I’m just an opponent for him. We are professionals, we’ll fight each other and that’s the best we can do.
“When you’re fighting, anything can happen. He’s a good finisher. You never know. Maybe I’m going to go three rounds with him. I want to do three rounds. It’s good to do three rounds because you feel great after a three-round fight. It’s important to win, but it’s important to go in there and have a very good fight. Give everything you have — nothing is more important.”
AROUND THE OCTAGON
Strikeforce veteran Roger Gracie has signed with the UFC. After putting together four straight submission victories, the Brazilian jiu jitsu specialist suffered a KO loss to Muhammed (King Mo) Lawal in September ... Hot off delivering the second-fastest knockout in UFC history against Mark Hominick at UFC 140 in Toronto, Chan Sung (Korean Zombie) Jung will headline UFC on FUEL TV 3 against Dustin Poirier May 15 ... During a recent bout of insomnia, UFC co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta held an impromptu Q&A on Twitter. Among other things, he confirmed Alistair Overeem will challenge heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos at UFC 146 in Las Vegas May 26, former titleholder Cain Velasquez is set to return against Frank Mir and Tito Ortiz will get his rubber match with Forrest Griffin.
Menjivar no longer has to work a side job