In October, Zuffa made official what most had suspect for some time; the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) would absorb World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) at the close of 2010. As a result the UFC will inherit deep bantam and featherweight divisions, and merge the lightweight division into an already cavernous field of combatants. The most popular WEC fighters, such as Urijah, Faber, Jose Aldo and Dominick Cruz, were the trophies of the merger. The other, more contested fighters were signed to the UFC as needed, and the less fortunate will be released into an unsure future. Dallas area fighter, Will Campuzano, was one of the fighters that will transition over into the UFC. The soft spoken Bantam weight will make his UFC debut at The Ultimate Fighter 12 finale, Dec. 4 at the Palms Casino, against Nick Pace.
Although the normally coy fighter does not use his fame as a pulpit to voice many of his opinions, he does have some very deep thoughts about his place in mixed martial arts, the UFC merger, Latinos in MMA and philanthropy.
The twenty four year old spent his first two years in Acapulco, Mexico. With fighters like Cain Velasquez and Tito Ortiz proudly (and many times loudly) putting on display their Mexican heritage to their fan’s delight, it would seem natural for Campuzano to do the same. Instead, he has decided to take a much quieter approach.
"I grew up with Mexican pride, my fighting does my talking for me," he said. "I used to go back a lot (to Acapulco) until I started fighting. I grew up watching boxing ... and my family all root for América (referring to the famous soccer club in Mexico City)."
Campuzano began training in mixed martial arts in the city of Mount Pleasant, TX under the tutelage of professional mixed martial artist Marcus Lanier. He later moved his training to the more diverse Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex and took residency at Allen Mohler’s academy, where he still currently trains.
"I’ve been with Mohler for three years," said the fighter, which is also the home to his wrestling coach and fellow bantam weight Jason Sampson. He explains Sampson’s credentials simply as "he wrestled three years in division one (NCAA)."
The one year Campuzano has spent in the WEC has seen its highs and lows. He took his first fight on a week and a half notice as a last minute replacement, and lost to Damacio Page. His second fight against Greg Jackson camper Coty Wheeler turned out more positive, as it gave him his first WEC win and fight of the night honors.
"I fought Wheeler with a torn left rotator cuff," he said. "I led with the right and made it happen with knees and elbows."
His third fight took him to the Great White North of Canada to take on Indiana wrestler Eddie Winland. Campuzano would get KO’ed in the second round, but would use the fight to analyze his deficiencies.
"I learned a lot from that fight ... where I needed to train more," he said. "I mentally broke in Canada."
He would retool his game and work on his wrestling with the understanding that solid takedowns and position control was what separated a mid-level WEC fighter from title contenders. To do this, Campuzano would take a break from the WEC and compete at regional promotion, King of Kombat (KOK) 9, to re-sight his new weaponry.
"I wanted to be more fluent in wrestling. My game plan was to shoot in. It was effortless," he said.
He would win shooting in almost a dozen times during the fight and would control the distance with sweeping Muay Thai leg kicks. For his efforts he is now a much more complete fighter, ready to take on the UFC.
One odd side note that came out of the fight at KOK was his contracted weight. Campuzano was competing in a 135-pound fight, but due to clerical error, was accidentally contracted at 130 pounds. While it was troublesome to the fighter that he was contracted to fight at five pounds less than his opponent, it was not a problem.
"I made 128 [pounds] without trying," he said. "I was at a buffet the night before. I could have made 125 in two hours."
It sets up rather nicely for him as Dana White has expressed at least some interest in adding a flyweight (125 pounds) division to the UFC.
When pressed on the possibility of competing at flyweight, Campuzano alludes to competing in both bantam and flyweight.
"At 125 I’m the one to look out for," he said. "It’s easy to compete in both."
One name that jumped out as a possible opponent at 125 pounds was Demetrious "Mighty Mouse" Johnson, who recently dispatched Damacio Page.
"Johnson at 125 would be a hell of a fight," he said. "When 125 is there, we’ll meet. But I’ll fight anyone."
When asked about any potential jitters in competing in Las Vegas, Campuzano's tranquil optimism for fighting in the UFC is apparent.
"I like to get out of town to fight. I’m relaxed," he said. "The UFC is taking over; it’s taking over the world!"
The Mexican-born fighter keeps his mind quiet and understands that while the UFC is paramount to his career, there are many other, more immediate causes he can champion. One such cause is the work he does with Eric Lyons at ‘Hope for the Silent Voices,' a charity whose goal is to build special needs facilities in countries lacking the resources to build such structures themselves.
"Eric’s a great guy," said the fighter. "He does some great work."
William Campuzano has passed the bar and ascended to the pinnacle of his sport at the age of 24. The good news is that he will have the opportunity to face top level competition every time the cage closes. The bad news is, he has to face top level competition every time the cage closes. His quiet demeanor, newly-refined wrestling skills and charitable nature will be displayed below an inconspicuous, but perfectly embodied, Mexican flag in Las Vegas on Dec. 4.