Juan Espino Diepa (Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, 1980) made history in the Spanish sport. At the end of last year I managed to enter the world's biggest mixed martial arts competition, the UFC, and win a fight. Now he recovers from an operation on a finger in his homeland. Meanwhile, review your career and look to the future.
It is almost two weeks since its operation in the hand. What exactly was done?
I am very happy, the operation went very well. Doctors Medina and Galván have shown me again their professionalism. I have no pain or inflammation and it is clear that the cut was very clean. In the semifinals -del The Ultimate Fighter (TUF)– I broke the index finger of the right hand, I was in a rare position, so I had to fight the end with the broken finger and I finished destroying it. Then, they had to recolocármelo whole with a plate and six screws.
When will he fight again?
Next week they take off my cast and they put on a kind of plastic prosthesis with which I can do some sports. With that I will be for a month and a half and then I will have to be like two or three more months without being able to hit, so that the bone holds well. I believe that until the summer I will not fight again.
After having managed to enter the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) What is your next challenge?
Right now I'm in the 23rd position, which is not like a ranking, but it's based on a series of studies the UFC does. My idea is to win one or two more fights and place myself in the top 15. The first idea was to enter and now it is to show that I can be one of the best fighters in the world or at least I can compete with them, which is what I am doing. Since we are here, I want to dream a little more and see what I am capable of.
And when do you think that first fight could be?
I think it could be about July, August or September, but it depends a lot on what the UFC says. Suddenly in June I'm fine and I'm looking for a fight. I prefer to say that by the end of summer and if it is sooner, the better.
He told me that a few hours ago he was visited by the so-called vampires for an anti-doping control. It is normal?
Yes. The USADA (Anti-Doping Agency of the United States) usually makes them. I did it two months before the final, in the final and just this morning, a week after my operation. Well, I'm calm.
How is that? Do you have a good day at the door of your house and have to pass the control?
Yes. They knock on the door, they call you and they say: 'Hey, I'm out here.' I think it was quarter past eight in the morning. I was a little surprised, but hey, it's part of this sport and after all, if they do it to me, they also do it to my rivals.
Has your sporting top been entering the UFC?
Of all the things I have achieved, this is the one that has had the most social impact. I am the only fighter in the world who was able to win a World Cup in three different modalities in the same weekend: jiu-jitsu, grappling and MMA (Mixed Martial Arts). That has not made any fighter in the world. I was the first white man to fight in Africa, I've been many times champion of Spain, Europe and the World … All that can be as important as the UFC, but at the advertising level, the impact of the UFC is very much above everything else.
In addition to that repercussion, has it filled you personally?
As well. To enter the UFC there is no way like they can have, for example, athletes who want to participate in an Olympic Games. It was very complicated. There were many people who did not trust me and maybe my unconsciousness or my desire to move forward encouraged me to try to get it.
In the end, his access to the UFC was after winning the TUF, a call reality show .
Yes. When I was told in March of last year that there was a heavyweight TUF, I was encouraged, and I do not like them. reality shows, I do not see them. When I came in, I did not even know the rules, but I said yes because I wanted to get there anyway. I went to the program, I won and then everything else came.
Did you have a bad time in the house?
I am a little proactive and I did a previous job with psychologists. He even wrote sentences to me in little notebooks and repeated them to me every morning. It motivated me. In addition, I worked a lot with yoga and meditation, things that in my normal life I do not do so much and there they helped me a lot. I had a hard time, yes, but I'm sure my teammates had a worse time, because they were not prepared.
There are many who think that to do what you do, you have to be violent by nature. What do you think?
This is a sport. It is true that it is a violent sport visually speaking for those who do not know it, but I do not believe that a butcher, for dedicating himself to killing animals or cutting them, is a murderer. It is your job. Nor do I think that someone who practices archery has to be violent. It is simply a sport. Hey, that can seem violent, I completely agree. I disagree with some colleagues, such as Conor McGregor, who talk trash and behave badly to attract attention and more people pay to see the fights. I disagree because I believe that the sport itself is already quite striking to help the haters -detractors- to criticize a pure and beautiful sport.
Has that new office opened doors for you?
Yes, in all aspects. In the street I am very much recognized. They did some studies of the repercussion that the news had in Spain and only at the television level were more than 10 million people who saw the fight in the country at some point. We are talking about 25% of the Spanish population. At the level of social networks, press, radios, websites, etc. It has been overflowing.
Have you received any offers?
I have a lot, but it is not so easy to make decisions because the UFC decides what I can do or not. Risto Mejide called me for a program and I was offered to participate in a reality very important in Spain, for example. I can give the OK and the UFC tell me no. After all, it's a company and I owe it to her. I am subject to what they tell me. I more or less know what they are going to let me do and what not, because it depends a lot on the sponsors.
He was proposed to the Gold Medal of Sports Merit and attended a gala in Madrid. What impresses you most, have the king or a UFC opponent before you?
I was more impressed to see the king because of everything that figure has meant to me since I was a child. I remember when I was young I saw a picture of King Juan Carlos with a Canarian wrestler, Santiago Ojeda, and I thought that I wish I could meet him one day. Honestly, I have been in so many struggles and in so many battles in so many countries that in the end I do not transmit fear or respect, but challenge. When I lived that moment I knew that I was unique, and what for many could be a photo with a normal person, for me it was a personal and historical moment.
How much has the Canarian struggle given him to be who he is?
The Canarian wrestling It has helped me a lot, what is the sport itself, from the competitions I did to the many colleagues and managers who helped me a lot in all aspects: motivation, values, etc. Then, on the other hand, I have to say that many times I was going to represent my country to Moscow, Warsaw, Canada or London by decision of the Higher Sports Council, not the Federation of Pepe, and some Canarian wrestling teams were not able to change the dates of their struggles because they said it was not their problem. So, I want to thank those who did. Maybe at some point I have been critical of the Canarian struggle, but I should have been critical of some people in the Canarian struggle, because they can not pay the just for sinners. It is not fair that for a bad regional president we had – Germán Rodríguez -, for the current president of Gran Canaria – José Antonio Caballero -, for some stupid club and especially for some referees, who have been my worst rivals, pay all the fight.
Why the referees?
Well, because from one year to another I went from having 10, 12 or 15 admonitions to 22 or 23 in four or five fights when I had not changed my way of fighting nor the regulation.
They were going for you?
Yes of course. It was a subject that certain referees took to the personal field. But hey, all that helped me overcome things that were unfair and fight for my interests. But then I say another thing: how many Canarian fighters, with all the good ones that have been, have achieved similar things? How many fighters do we have fighting in MMA or in any other fighting modality at the national level? I do not know any of the four thousand and odd licenses we have. With this I do not mean that I am better or worse, I simply say that I have been different from the rest. They are reflections that come with time and from tranquility. When I injured my knee due to wear, the federation and the insurer left me lying. That burned me enough. Was it so difficult to gather a group of fighters, to organize a friendly fight, as well as the many that I went to collaborate with my operation? They thought I was not going to be an athlete when I broke my knee three or four years ago.
I do not have to tell him that I notice him very resentful.
Yes, a lot. He had not talked so much about this topic. But hey, it is clear that it is not a resentment with the sport itself, but with certain people.
Of The Trota to The handsome going by The white lion . Which nickname do you like the most?
(He laughs) And also in Morocco they told me Hassan, in Brazil El Hispano… They have told me so many names … What happens is that some jump to fame and others do not. My name is Juan.
But he will prefer some …
I do not like Trota's for many things that do not come to mind now. That was the time of the Canarian struggle and it's over. When I arrive at a place, I say that my name is Juan. Now, who does not like to be called handsome even if ugly? I do not know who will have looked at me with affection.
Is it more linked?
Well, after they look at you and say: 'It's not so much', but at least they already come to look at you (laughs). I do not think it is more linked, that's a matter of attitude.
Let's go back to the beginning. Is your challenge then to be among the 15 best in the UFC?
I do not have anything else to prove right now. I have already put the icing on my sports career.
Have you reached your roof?
No, I have not reached my roof. Let's say I finished my cake and I've already put the icing on it. What tomorrow I will go around the world sailing or want to be UFC champion? I do not know, but I already consider myself satisfied with my sports career. Now I am going to enjoy. Without that pressure, in recent years I have managed to get here, so it is no wonder that I can achieve even greater challenges, although I can rest assured.