Forgive Vince Lucero if he’s a bit star-struck at the idea of facing former six-time WWE champion Dave Bautistatomorrow night in front of a worldwide Pay Per View audience.
Even his own kids are in awe of the 6-foot-6, 265-pound giant known throughout the world for his death-defying moves inside the squared circle.
“When I told them I was fighting Bautista, they didn’t say, ‘Good luck, dad!’ They asked, ‘Can you get his autograph?’” joked Lucero at Friday’s pre-fight weigh-in at the Providence Downtown Marriott Hotel. “The guy is a freakin’ monster, but how do you say no to this fight? This is what I’ll be remembered for, so I need to leave it all in the cage.”
Two weeks ago, the Casa Grande, Ariz., native had no idea he was about to be thrust into the spotlight, but when Bautista’s original opponent, Rashid Evans, fell through, Lucero (20-22, 11 KOs) accepted the fight on short notice. He and Bautista will clash tomorrow night in Bautista’s long-awaited mixed martial arts debut at The Dunkin’ Donuts Center in the main event of “Real Pain,” presented by Jimmy Burchfield’s Classic Entertainment & Sports in association with June Entertainment and 4zero1 Entertainment Group.
“When you’re a fighter, you fight,” Lucero said.
Lucero has faced elite competition throughout his career, former two-time Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC) heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia, former UFC heavyweight contenders Justin Eilers, Homer Moore and Christian Wellisch, Strikeforce veteran Ruben Villareal and former World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) contender Jimmy Ambriz.
“I’ve been in there with some prime UFC veterans. I’ve been around the world. I know what it takes,” Lucero said.
“This is truly an honor. When they asked me to fight Sylvia, I had already retired. I had a full-time job, but I said, ‘Sure, why not?’ It was like facing Michael Jordan in basketball. You can’t say no to opportunities like this. I’m a fighter, so I fight.”
Added Burchfield: “Vince isn’t coming here to lose. He knows what this fight can do for his career. For Dave to accept this fight against a guy with 42 fights and say, ‘I’ll take him,’ that says a lot. He doesn’t have to do this – he wants to do this.”
The 43-year-old Bautista is a six-time WWE world champion, winning the World Heavyweight Championship four times and the WWE Championship twice. He also won the World Tag Team Championship three times and is the longest-reigning World Heavyweight Champion in WWE history. The former bodybuilder and wrestler is also one of the stars of the upcoming Quentin Tarantino motion picture The Man With The Iron Fists, which is scheduled to hit theaters Nov. 2.
“I’m doing this for my love and passion of MMA, not for personal reasons,” Bautista said. “I’m tired of talking about myself at this point, but I want to thank everyone who has supported me and supported this event.
The undercard features 13 fights, including three UFC veterans. Charleston, S.C., middleweight Chris McNally (5-4) will face former UFC title contender Dave Loiseau (20-10, 13 KOs); former UFC welterweight Marc Stevens (14-7, 6 KOs) of Lorraine, N.Y., will face dangerous Providence native Luis Felix (7-6, 4 KOs); Boston native John “Doomsday” Howard (17-7, 6 KOs), a veteran of seven UFC shows will take on middleweight Brett Chism (16-11, 7 KOs) of Valdosta, Ga.; and former UFC welterweight Chad Reiner (29-13, 9 KOs) of Omaha, Neb., will face Pawtucket, R.I., veteran Keith Jeffrey (8-2).
Tickets are available at www.cesmma.com or www.ticketmaster.com and are priced at $20.00, $35.00, $55.00, $75.00, $125.00 and $250.00. The show will also air live on Direct TV Pay Per View for $29.95 ($39.95 in high definition) beginning at 8 p.m., or through Livestream via www.bautistamma.com in high definition.