Damacio Page will watch himself compete Wednesday night on The Ultimate Fighter 24 from a local Albuquerque sports bar. Just 24 hours earlier, Page was laboring hard and sweating profusely at his other gig as a subcontractor.
The MMA veteran is currently on a job remodeling and repainting a home. Without it, Page wouldn't be able to afford his true passion of fighting.
"Gotta make money, man," Page told MMA Fighting on Tuesday. "To support a training camp. ... It's hot right now. It's probably like 89 degrees today. But it's been raining, so it's humid as hell. Usually in the summer here it's like 95, 96."
That's the reality of things for Page and Adam Antolin, his opponent on Wednesday's episode in the first round of the TUF 24 flyweight tournament. The winner of the 16-man tourney, which pits champions from other organizations against one other, gets a title shot against UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson at the TUF 24 Finale on Dec. 3 in Las Vegas.
Page, the Legacy FC 125-pound champion, is 33 years old and has been competing in MMA since 2005. Antolin, the Tachi Palace Fights beltholder, is 34 with eight years of pro fighting under his belt.
For both of them, this run on The Ultimate Fighter could be their last, best chance at making the UFC and making a run.
Antolin (11-3) tried out for a 135-pound slot on TUF four years ago, but didn't make it because they told him he was too small. He has won seven in a row on the regional circuit, trying to make the UFC organically but always kept in his mind that the cutoff age for The Ultimate Fighter reality show was typically 34.
"I knew that was also probably the age range where they're probably going to cut off signing anybody to the UFC," Antolin said. "I kind of made that comparison right there."
Antolin, who trains out of American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, has been working at a restaurant as a server and bartender for 10 years. The show has motivated him to put that on pause, move in with his mother and focus fully on training to fight.
"I got to this point on four or five days of work," Antolin said. "What could I do if I use that to train instead?"
Page (19-10), a product of JacksonWink MMA, has fought everywhere — from the UFC to WEC to K-1 Dynamite in Japan. "The Angel of Death" puts the word "journey" in journeyman. And he's hung around for as long as he has because he's good enough and he's a must-watch, action fighter. Page's knockout of Brian Hall to win the Legacy title in 2014 was one of the best KOs of that year.
"Damacio, he's been in the game for a long time," Antolin said. "I think I watched Damacio fighting before I even started fighting. I have respect for the guy. He kind of paved the way for a lot of the lightweight stuff that's going on right now."
Antolin said he originally gave himself until age 35 to carve out a niche in MMA after starting up with AKA three years ago. He was already 26 years old when he began training. Page says he has plenty left of fighting before calling it quits.
"I see about at least four more years of rock ‘em, sock ‘em robots," Page said. "I'm not done. I'm having fun, still. I'm here to make some money, I'm here to finish my career off in the UFC. Work is work. Everybody works. But you can only fight for so long. I say I have four more years — a good, strong, hard four years."
While some of their fellow castmates are just getting started — Brandon Moreno is only 22 years old — Page and Antolin are battling against time as well as their opponents.
Page said he wasn't sure if he'd get another call from the UFC, especially after losing his last fight in 2015. So TUF represented a window that was rapidly closing.
"I've gotta win two or three fights anyway," Page said. "That might take a year. After a year, I might be 34, maybe late 34. They might take a look and say, ‘Do we want a 34- or 35-year-old Damacio Page?' So that's what came into mind. It was like, alright I'll try to get my foot in the door and try to get this done. If I wait too long, it might be too late."