“I’m not sure about the names,” Baeza said following his second-round submission of Takashi Sato this past Saturday at UFC APEX. “I know my coaches want somebody in the top-15. That’s fine with me.
“But right now, to be honest, with everything that happened this year, we had four training camps, and during that time, I lost someone close to me, so I want to come back and see my family and be with them for a little bit.”
Baeza dedicated his win to his cousin, Jose Ramos, who recently died. The emotional tribute followed an up-and-down 2020 with two wins inside the octagon. Baeza netted an additional $50,000 for “Performance of the Night” following his win over Sato.
The arm-triangle that ended the fight was its own kind of bonus for Baeza, who responded to critics of his style.
“I shouldn’t be reading some of this stuff on the internet, but it’s kind of hard not to, he said of online detractors. [They said], ‘What belt is this guy, Baeza? Take him down, it will be a wrap.’ I’ve been doing jiu-jitsu for over a decade now, so good luck.”
For the record, Baeza has a black belt after 10 years on the mat. Still, he feels like he needs to improve on a variety of things before he’s ready to hold the belt, and that’s why he’s not calling out anybody right now.
“The short-term goal is to get that ‘W,’ but the long-term goal is to be champion,” he said. “So whoever is in front of me is in front of me. It doesn’t matter if it’s top-15, top-10. Whoever it is, I’m coming after you.”
Helping Baeza in his rise is one of the sport’s most talented – and most controversial – welterweights, Colby Covington. Asked about Covington’s presence at MMA Masters, their home gym in Miami, Baeza sidestepped the vitriol his teammate is known for and focused on the positives.
“He’s a good guy, man,” Baeza said. “I know everyone’s going to get on him and all the stuff he’s saying. He’s a different person in the gym, and he’s only pushed us to get better.”
Whenever Baeza’s next booking comes around, they’ll be pushing once again. But for now, it’s celebration – and a hard look from his coaches.
“Trust me, I’m going to find fault,” he said. “My coaches are going to tear me up. I was happy, then I remembered, oh god, now comes the criticism. But it’s a welcome thing.”
Check out Baeza’s interview, which kicks off the UFC Vegas 15 post-fight press conference.