When Mike Breeden got that elusive phone call all MMA prospects dream of a little over a week ago, he was ready for it.
Breeden will make his octagon debut this Saturday when he faces Alexander Hernandez in a lightweight bout at UFC Vegas 38. Breeden replaces Leonardo Santos, who said in an Instagram post that the reason for his withdrawal was due to “personal reasons.”
So when the Dana White’s Contender Series alum received word he was an option to replace Santos during a special occasion, Breeden admits there was cautious excitement.
“I got the call [this past] Wednesday,” Breeden told MMA Fighting while appearing on We Got Next. “I was at Texas Roadhouse celebrating my son’s 10th birthday and I answer the phone — which I shouldn’t have been answering the phone but I’m glad I did — and my manager was like, ‘Put the fork down.’ I was like, ‘What?’ He said, ‘Put the fork down, we might have something.’
“So I just boxed my food up, finished celebrating, got home from it and get the call that it’s happening. I was super excited, but I wasn’t sure it was real because I’ve had so many ‘this might happen’ calls and it never happened. I couldn’t believe it and my son started crying, said it was the best birthday gift he could have.”
Breeden competed on the Contender Series in August 2020, losing a unanimous decision to Anthony Romero, who did not receive a contract despite an impressive performance. “Money” dealt with a lot that week and in the fight, first because his entire coaching staff — including head coach James Krause — tested positive for COVID-19 and couldn’t make the trip to Las Vegas.
In the fight, Romero landed a slew of hard leg kicks that had their effect on Breeden, essentially leaving him with one leg for the latter parts of the bout. Because Romero didn’t get the finish on the injured fighter, Dana White elected not to sign him, the UFC president stated after the event.
Like most who watched the fight, Breeden was surprised Romero didn’t get signed. In fact, he thought White would award multiple contracts coming out of the spirited 155-pound battle.
“I know it was an exciting fight and I thought we were both gonna get contracts at the end of it,” Breeden said. “I’m backstage and people are like, ‘Let’s go back to the hotel,’ and I said, ‘No, I’m staying until he calls those damn names.’
“I had a feeling we were both gonna get contracts, but then we both didn’t get one. But it’s all good, I’m here now.”
Since his DWCS appearance, Breeden picked up consecutive victories under the Fighting Alliance Championship banner on the Missouri regional scene.
The 32-year-old is familiar with Hernandez, who looks to rebound from a 2-3 run over his last five appearances, including a unanimous decision loss to Thiago Moises in his most recent bout at February’s UFC Vegas 20 event.
Although a short notice octagon debut isn’t ideal, Breeden sees a lot of advantages from a mental perspective.
“His coach is my head coach’s coach, so we kind of have the same system,” Breeden explained. “I’m familiar with him, I know what he brings to the table, he’s a dangerous guy, great fighter. But it’s my time. I can go in there and do something great, and put myself right in the mix of things.
“There’s nothing to think about, really. Just go in there, perform, and just have fun. I like it. You don’t have to really think about your opponent through the whole camp, it’s just, hey, let’s go do this thing.”
Without having to overthink anything, along with having some knowledge of Hernandez, Breeden is ready to do what he does best: bring excitement to the cage and give the seven-fight UFC veteran everything he can handle.
“It’s gonna be a barnburner,” Breeden stated. “I know he’s gonna come after it. I have an idea of what he’s gonna do, he’s gonna try to kick on my leg again — everybody tries to kick on my leg — but I made the adjustments, I know how to handle it now.
“If he doesn’t do that he’s gonna try and take me down because once my hands start going, people start shooting on me. I’m used to that, though. I’ve got a brown belt, myself. I’m no stranger to the ground, I just don’t ever use it, but I might have to pull it out this time around.”