California has long established a dominant presence in the MMA scene. Some of the world’s best fighters, gyms, and coaches reside on the west coast. The region has also seen many momentous events first hand. Later this month, Bellator returns to California looking to host such a show. The promotion presents Bellator 201, June 29th, and with them comes a life-long Californian, Josue Lugo, a heavyweight Army veteran who is looking to put on a show.
Josue Lugo: Life, Love, and Fighting
The journey to this point for Josue Lugo has come with its share of bumps and bruises. Not unlike the career of every professional fighter. Yet, Lugo is not the typical modern day mixed martial artist. He is one of a dying breed.
As a young child, the environment he grew around was hostile. Gangs roamed the area of his home, and when real danger was not afoot, adolescent children seeking challenges and respect through the art of fear, as well as violence, were.
Lugo constantly found himself fighting. His parents raised him in a strict Catholic household. One that prioritized the word of god, which made sense, considering his father is a pastor. What didn’t make sense was his family’s response to his fighting. They encouraged young Lugo to walk away from conflict, remove himself from the situation. While in words, such a statement sounds profound, in practice it does little if nothing. Refusing to stand up for oneself is seen as a sign of weakness, especially for his age at the time. Doing so actively made things worse for Lugo.
A Change of Pace and Wrestling
Even when he did learn to effectively defend himself, the challenges kept coming. It wasn’t until his family moved, at the age of 15, that he could recall becoming the comfortable, outgoing, and funny man he is today.
This new home offered a new way of life for Lugo. He no longer needed to worry about fighting and he began to participate in a multitude of sports. That is when he found wrestling, but that was a story of its own.
During his junior year of high school, Lugo’s attendance was less than punctual. After some time, his first-period teacher had to warn Lugo that his tardiness was not acceptable. For this reason, his teacher told Lugo he would be forced to discipline him.
Being from a strict family, Lugo knew the news would not be warmly welcomed by either of his parents, so he asked for forgiveness. To his luck, it just so happened that on this day his first-period teacher gave him an opportunity. In fact, Lugo’s first-period teacher was not just an academic, he was also the schools wrestling coach.
In-form of mercy, the teacher offered to forget about the tardiness if Lugo joined the wrestling team. Of course, a second chance like this would not be lost on Lugo. He joined the team and cultivated a long-lasting love for the sport he still has today.
A Path Less Traveled
The sport of wrestling was beneficial in the early life of Josue Lugo. The 36-year-old fighter used the lessons he learned from his coach and the sport in order to earn his way through basic training. What was largely beneficial for Lugo was the harsh mentality his high school wrestling coach brought forth. He found that his drill sergeant in basic training had a similar method of motivation.
“My coach, he is a people person now, (but) back then he wasn’t. He was hard, not anybody can be coached by him, especially in today’s new generation, where (people are) a bunch of little snowflakes, I’m sorry to say”, Lugo told MMASucka. “No one can handle criticism anymore and my coach he was going to get you uncomfortable, and make your weakness into your strong point. That helped me a lot because when I went to boot camp, I had a drill sergeant who was the same way. And now as a fighter, same thing with my fighting coach”.
Lugo enlisted in the military at the age of 17, after graduating early from high school. Being so young, Lugo needed his parent’s approval before enlisting in the armed forces. At the time, his parents were very concerned much like any veteran’s family. But, Lugo asserted that once everyone saw the development inside him as a human, they knew it as one of the best decisions he ever made.
“My parents are from Mexico, so they didn’t know what I was getting myself into. They didn’t know what to expect when I went to the army. I was 17, I graduated high school at 17. But once they saw, they saw it was one of the best decisions I ever made”.
“I actually went in because I wanted adventure and because I wanted to wrestle but if I had known who was at my weight in the army, I probably would have went to another branch. Because they take the top 2 at each weight to the all-army team and the guys at my weight were studs man, they were ranked in the world”.
Army and a Growing Love
Lugo was a career veteran. The Californian spent 13 years with the armed forces between the years of 1999 and 2012. It was around that time that VHS tapes of the UFC and its no holds barred fighting were circulating around the country. Lugo managed to get his hands on copies and from there, his love for fighting only grew.
He began as a street fighter but his love for competition brought his eyes to boxers like Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather. He looked up to Randy Couture and credits him as an influence upon his style during his amateur fighting career.
The older he grew, the grander his love for MMA became. He believes it to be a type of therapy. The brutality of combat is like a soothing melody ringing off the strings of a Bosendorfer grand piano.
“I was a natural street fighter, I learned fighting watching De La Hoya and Mayweather box and watching Randy Couture fight… if I didn’t love this so much, I wouldn’t be doing it. I got a bum right knee and the doctor even tells me, ‘I don’t know why you are doing this’ and I go, ‘This is my therapy. I got PSTD. I do it because I love it’. Other people are doing it for the money, I do it because I love it”.
“Some people ask me, ‘You love to fight?’, I go, ‘I love to fight’. For me, it’s a sport, it’s a brotherhood. I’m friends with all the guys I ever fought. We keep up with each other, we talk to each other. If someone is going through a hard time, we give them a word of encouragement. I don’t know man, I feel like we are modern day gladiators”.
Josue Lugo is scheduled to fight Tyrell Fortune at Bellator 201, in Temecula, California, on June 29th. The match-up presents an interesting challenge for Lugo. Taking the fight on short notice, he has less time to prepare for a young and rising fighter in Fortune. He has respect for his opponent, yet he is looking through him in order to stay focused on a larger goal he has in mind.
“The guy I’m fighting he’s an Olympic caliber wrestler but I seen his fights and he at least throws hands. He’ll go back to his wrestling if he has to but the thing about him is he’ll throw hands which is good. He’s also young so he’s going to have a bright future in this sport. So to me, it’s an honor to be able to fight a guy like that and I get to test myself, see where I am at still. Everybody that knows me knows when I come, I’m just going to bring it. My plans, my goal is to fight until I’m 45″.
“The goal is to go out there put on a show of a lifetime. Everywhere I go, I make new fans. The plan is to go out there get this win and get a contract. I don’t want to be one of those people they just call in, I want a contract. I want to be a contracted fighter. This fight and the LFA fight I had three years ago, biggest fights in my career. I’m taking the biggest fight of my career on five weeks notice, why? Because I don’t know if I’m ever going to get another opportunity like this and I’m getting old”.