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With UFC deal nearing end, James Vick hopes 6-1 Octagon record nets him bigger promotional push

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

With his victory over short-notice opponent Abel Trujillo at UFC Fight Night 104, James Vick cemented himself as one of the unsung killers of the lightweight division.

A veteran of The Ultimate Fighter 15, Vick has quietly strung together a sterling 6-1 record over the course of his tenure in one of the UFC’s most talent-rich divisions. And after proving his value yet again with a third-round submission of Trujillo, “The Texecutioner” is only willing to look forwards at a top-15 opponent next, rather than taking another lateral step by revisiting a match-up against his original UFC Fight Night 104 foe, Johnny Case.

“No disrespect to him, but I’m 6-1 in the UFC,” Vick said Monday on The MMA Hour. “He’s not ranked above me. I want to fight somebody above me. I’m not interested in fighting people who are ranked below me, because I’m 29, about to be 30 years old. I’m trying to be a world champion. I want to move up the ladder. I know that I fought Beneil (Dariush) and he was ranked above me and I blew that opportunity, but when I get another opportunity, I will get myself back where I need to be. I definitely feel like I’m a top fighter in the world, and I know that’s where I belong.”

Vick is undoubtedly one of the overlooked success stories of the UFC’s 155-pound division. After compiling a 3-1 run to the semifinals of TUF 15, the Texas native kicked off his Octagon career with five consecutive wins over the likes of Ramsey Nijem and Jake Matthews. He suffered his only career loss at the hands of Dariush at UFC 199, but rebounded in a major way with his dominant showing against a battle-tested opponent in Trujillo this past weekend.

Vick used his time on the mic after UFC Fight Night 104 to call for a fight against a ranked foe at the UFC’s return to Texas on May 13 at UFC 211. But with only two bouts remaining on his UFC contract, there were other things on Vick’s mind as well.

“I was actually going to go off a bit and be like, I want to be promoted more,” Vick said. “I actually talked to, I guess, one of the PR guys from the UFC — I forgot his name, but I talked to him afterwards, like, man, I’m 6-1 in the UFC and no one knows who the hell I am. I was like, y’all got guys and girls who have .500 records in the UFC and they’re getting flown to places, doing guest appearances. I was like, why don’t y’all fly me somewhere? I’m trying to make me some money here.

“And he promised he would, he promised he would. I don’t understand why I’m 6-1 in the UFC, and I’m fighting in my home state, 30 minutes from my house in Dallas, and [I’m] on the freaking prelims. Because when I was supposed to fight Johnny Case, Johnny Case is 4-1, which is very good record in the UFC, I was 5-1 — they had us fighting on the second fight on Fight Pass. I’m like, what the f*ck? That’s ridiculous.”

Vick ended up competing on the main card of UFC Fight Night 104 after the short-notice change in opponents and consequently put on a show for his Texas faithful, rebounding from his tough loss to Dariush and becoming only the third man in the UFC to defeat Trujillo other than top-shelf lightweight contenders Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov, both of whom are slated to challenge for the interim lightweight title at UFC 209.

“My confidence never wavered,” Vick said. “I lost that (Dariush) fight and it sucks, and I knew I blew it, but at the same time, in my opinion, I just got caught. Beneil Dariush timed me with a perfectly timed shot, a perfectly time strike off a head kick. I threw a head kick, he countered me, and then landed some vicious ground-and-pound and I wasn’t able to recover. In my opinion, that could happen to anybody.

“You look at Beneil’s, I guess it was his first or second fight in the UFC, Ramsey Nijem knocked him out in the first round. And I choked Ramsey Nijem out in one minute. Stuff happens, and I know that I’m still one of the very best fighters in the world. I know that I just beat Abel, and in my opinion, I beat him just as easily as the two No. 1 contenders right now did. And I’m not saying that I’m ready for a title shot yet or anything like that, but I know I’m one of the top fighters in the world and I’m going to be there. I know that with all my heart, so my confidence never wavered.”

Thus far in his UFC run, the biggest hurdle for Vick has been his body rather than his opponents. Injuries have limited Vick to only seven fights in four years in the organization.

Vick admitted that over-training used to be one of his biggest weaknesses, as he began MMA late in life and felt the need to overdo it in order to catch up to his peers. But now he is confident that he has remedied his injury woes, and he has already talked to UFC matchmaker Sean Shelby about finding a spot on UFC 211’s pay-per-view this upcoming summer.

“He said, ‘I’ll see if I can find a spot for you,’” Vick revealed. “I’m thinking, I don’t see why not? We’re fighting 30 minutes from my house. I just don’t understand it. I mean, I understand that a lot of it is me being inactive, so it’s hard to keep me in the [spotlight] when I’ve only fought seven times in four-and-a-half years. I do understand that, so that is my fault. But at the same time, I’m not a boring fighter. I’m not a boring-ass fighter, I’m not a boring-ass person. I have three finishes in the UFC.

“I’ll give myself that, I’ve had one boring fight in the UFC. I would say when I fought Nick Hein, it was boring, because I was so injured I couldn’t use both of my hands. I couldn’t even punch for three weeks before the fight. I just had to do what I had to do to get the win, so that was a very boring fight, I’ll give them that. But that’s the only boring fight I’ve had in the UFC. I’m an exciting striker. I stand up and fight. I don’t try to go in there and lay on people, or take them down or whatever. I got a lot of submissions because everyone tries to take me down. How about some publicity, man? It’s a little annoying.”

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