On Saturday night, Peru will have the opportunity to have a second champion for The Ultimate Fighter: Latin American, and this is no coincidence according to Enrique Barzola.
At the finale of season three of TUF: Latin America, Barzola's teammate Claudio Puelles will be taking on Mexico's Martin Bravo to crown the lightweight champion of the tournament. Barzola, who's known Puelles since he was 16 years old, says this has been a long time coming for his teammate.
"I've been telling people that he's [Puelles] a good fighter, and that he was going to make it to the UFC, and just like I said, he's now in the final of The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America against a very tough Mexican," Barzola told MMA Fighting.
"I've know him personally for five years, I met him when he was 16. He was a young man with a lot of future, a lot of technique, and he's a very strong guy despite his young age, and he also eats very well, and is a great talent."
Only a total of three Peruvians have competed in the three seasons of TUF: Latin America, yet despite the low number of contestants, they have managed to make their way to the top of the tournament on multiple occasions. Barzola, who won the second TUF: Latin America, is happy that his country is getting some shine in the MMA world.
"Yeah, I'm very happy now that this give Peru a better look," Barzola explained. "The UFC can now set its eyes on Peru, and commentators are now saying that for the second time Peru in the final of TUF: Latin America, so they're now recognizing my work, recognizing the work of my team and Claudio Puelles. So now he has to shine and win that fight, so there are more Peruvian fighters. Claudio is a very complete fighter, very mature with a lot of experience."
Come Saturday, both Barzola and Puelles will be stepping in the octagon to represent and prove that Peru is an MMA power in Latin America.
"We're a power in MMA, maybe not in a world level, but we're a power in Latin America after Brazil," Barzola said. "We've trained very hard for this. I've shown this, now Claudio will show this, and whoever follows will also show this. So were training very hard, so that the world sets its eyes on us and sees that we're great fighters with a lot of a lot of drive to succeed and become world champions."
And to show that drive and champion potential, Barzola will have to get through Nick and Nate Diaz' pupil - Chris Avila. ‘El Fuerte' is out to ‘destroy' the American, and avoid a decision at all costs, as Barzola lost his most recent fight in a controversial decision to Kyle Bochniack.
"I respect all my opponents the same, as I know they have all made sacrifices to get where they are," Barzola said. "But what I can tell you, is that in this fight, I will destroy him 100 percent. I'm mentally ready, I've prepared well, I'm used to the altitude now, and in this fight I will destroy him whether it's on the ground or standing up. All I want is to finish the fight because I don't want to leave it in the hands of the judges like my last fight."
Despite leaving the octagon with a bad taste in his mouth, and calling his decision loss a total ‘robbery', Barzola believes that his controversial loss has helped his career, as he learned a valuable lesson.
"It has given me experience, it has made me focus more, and I will try not to leave it in the judges hands," Barzola said. "It has served me as experience for my professional career because I could be in the cage thinking I'm winning, but the judges might not be thinking the same. So I've been training harder, and I've fixed the mistakes I made in my previous fight. I know that I won the fight, and everyone felt that way. The UFC, the FOX commentators, and many other experts saw me as the winner, but well, it's not about that, it's about what the judges decide, so I've learned my lesson and this time it wont happen again."