After an over six-year absence, Daniel Pineda’s return to the octagon was as good as can be. That sentiment not only rings true for himself, but those who believed in him as well.
Pineda finished Herbert Burns in the second round after landing a flurry of elbows in the crucifix position during the main card of UFC 252 earlier this month. “The Pit” snapped Burns’ five-fight winning streak and did so as an over two-to-one underdog.
With 42 pro fights under his belt, Pineda has dealt with being an underdog many times before. Despite being a longtime veteran of the sport, Pineda would be lying if he said he wasn’t paying attention to the chatter and betting lines surrounding the matchup.
“Oh yeah. Big time,” Pineda told MMA Fighting while appearing on What the Heck. “I sneak a peek but I knew it because a lot of my people were like, ‘Oh, we’re betting this much money on you,’ and I was like, ‘Why don’t you put some pressure on me, you bastard.’
“It’s a lot of pressure when someone tells you how much they’re putting on you. I’m happy, I like being the underdog. I like to prove people wrong. I was the underdog in the PFL. I was a +700-something. When I started with Herbert Burns, I was a +400-something. I wish it would’ve stayed there and made more money.”
The 35-year-old made quite a bit of money at UFC 252 as he earned his win bonus, a “Performance of the Night” bonus, and 20 percent of his opponent’s purse after Burns missed weight by 3.5 pounds.
While it was a superb night at the office for Pineda, it was his friends and training partners who cashed in even more as they took the dog odds and made a lot of money.
Pineda was asked about the biggest payout in his circle and there were some big ones.
“$100,000,” Pineda stated. “Another guy won, I think, $84,000. Vegas hates us. I was like, ‘I’ll take 10 percent of whatever y’all make.’ They’re all gonna take me out to eat and I’m gonna get fat.
“Those were the two biggest ones. Other people were like, $10,000, $16,000, $20,000. But it’s crazy.”
The 4oz. Fight Club standout and wrestling coach was given an over/under of $250,000 to encapsulate how much his strong support system made. While he didn’t give a precise number, it eclipsed the target and then some.
“A lot more,” Pineda said. “I was such an underdog and the people that I train with, they know that there’s no quit in me. You’re gonna have to knock me out or put me to sleep to stop me. I don’t just stop. So anytime we’re in a fight, we’re just gonna keep on fighting. We’re gonna see who has more heart.
“But you know they were all nervous when he took my back, they were like, ‘Oh, sh*t!’”
Pineda’s first stint in the UFC took place between January 2012 and March 2014 in which he competed seven times. After winning his first two fights via first-round submission, the Houston native would go 1-4 over his next five that led to his release.
After making the rounds with Legacy FC, Bellator, LFA, and the Texas regional scene, Pineda had an improbable run through the 2019 season of the PFL and earned a spot in the $1 million championship fight. That bout didn’t happen as Pineda would later fail a drug test and was subsequently suspended for six months by the Nevada State Athletic Commission.
Having just re-signed with the promotion, Pineda felt like he wasn’t in a position to turn down any opportunity regardless of the notice and lack of cardiovascular conditioning. It also didn’t help that after a massive weight cut in a short amount of time, his opponent missed weight and didn’t give Pineda any other options.
“As soon as they told me, I said yes,” Pineda explained. “I trained for one week and then I took off to Vegas. Two weeks’ notice. (I had to cut) 27 pounds. It sucked. It takes a big toll on your cardio. Cutting all this weight, it just drains your cardio. I was, already, not in good shape because it was only two weeks and when you have to cut 27 pounds, it’s like, sh*t.
“I wish their camp would’ve told me, ‘Let’s do a catchweight at 150.’ Those five pounds count a lot. If they told me to do a catchweight at 150, I would’ve been like, ‘Nice.’ Screw his money. Let me know so I don’t have to make weight. Every fighter will tell you those last five pounds hurt the most. I guess he knows because he didn’t freakin make weight.”
It wasn’t all roses for Pineda. He suffered a nasty cut on his left eye the required 18 stitches. Had the fight gone past the second round, Pineda admits he was worried the fight may have been stopped by the cage side doctor.
Luckily it didn’t and Pineda got his first UFC win since April 2013 in emphatic fashion.
“It felt great,” Pineda said. “It felt like those two weeks were so long. Your first fight back, you’re such an underdog, everyone thinks you’re gonna get demolished, all these people talking sh*t, I love to prove people wrong. I love it. And the hype train they had, it just crashed in the road.”