On February 25, I spent an afternoon talking with Melvin Lopez, a fighter out of Fitness Fight Factory (F3) in North Richland Hills, TX. F3 is owned and operated by ex-UFC fighter Johnny Bedford, who was featured on The Ultimate Fighter Season 14: Bisping vs. Miller, and who fought Rani Yahya twice for the UFC in 2014. Lopez is scheduled to fight Joshua Langley at the D’Town Beatdown at the Beauregard Arena in DeRidder, Louisiana, on Saturday, March 2. So, I figured that it would be a good time to check in on Lopez, get to know him a bit, and see what he’s been doing to prepare for the fight.
Every superhero has an origin story. What’s yours? Where do you come from? What got you into fighting?
Well, I’m from Honduras, my dad was in the military. We moved to Panama, then to the US. In middle school, I saw a fight, and it was a shorter guy beating up on a bigger guy. It was the first UFC, and that fighter was Royce Gracie. When I saw this, that’s when I decided that it was what I wanted to do.
What’s a typical week like for you? How often are you training, and what do you typically train and when?
Normally, I train after work. I work anywhere between 10-12 hours a day. After work, I go straight to the gym. I train about 2 hours per day, 6 days per week. I do cardio, weights, running, cycling, swimming, all on my own. I also do personal training. At F3 we do boxing, kickboxing, wrestling, jiu jitsu, we cover everything. We usually do boxing and sparring on Thursdays and Sundays.
What do you like most about fighting? What do you feel is your biggest strength?
I like beating up on people, showing up, taking their soul. Once you step in with me, you’re going to remember me. You’re going to remember my name. I want to let you know that I’m the best that you’re ever going to face in this game.
And your biggest strength?
Wrestling and jiu jitsu are are probably my biggest strengths.
As a grappler, do you have any favorite positions or submissions?
I don’t really have a favorite. I’ll take whatever my opponent gives me.
What was it like the first time that you stepped into the cage? What was going through your mind?
To be honest, I was very calm. I knew what I was getting in to. Before that fight, I was training for a while, like 2 years before. My mind was set to get in there and bang it out. I was calm, very relaxed, and I knew what I was going to do. I just wanted to have fun.
What is your record? Are there any notable fights that you’d like to tell me about?
Currently, I’m 2-1, and my only loss was a decision. In that loss, I believe that the win was taken from me, but it’s in the past, I can’t go back.
Any notable fights?
My first fight was my first loss, and it was against one of the best fighters I ever faced, a very tough opponent named Ben Cothran (RITC – Rage In The Cage 29, Oklahoma City, OK, 2014). I wouldn’t mind getting back in the cage with him. We turned out to become good friends, and we keep up on facebook and social media. We have a lot in common. We are both hungry and strong fighters.
Obviously, your long-term goal is to become a world champion. What are your short-term goals? What are you doing to help you get there?
My short-term goal is what everybody wants to do, learn as much as I can in the fight game, train as much as I can, listen to my coaches, pay attention to them. Keep grinding. Every day, I come in as much as I can. If I’m not sick, not hurt, I’m in the gym.
Let’s say it’s fight day. How does it begin for you? What do you do leading up to the fight? What are you doing 2 hours before, what’s going through your mind? 1 hour before? 30 minutes before?
I’m a very calm fighter. It doesn’t matter if it’s 3 hours before, or 8 hours, or 30 minutes, I’m very calm. I’m very relaxed. I stay calm, just warm up, stretch, get ready, so I can get in there and put on a show for the crowd.
How do you stay so calm before a fight? I know a lot of fighters have trouble trying to channel that nervous energy. What’s your secret?
I’m more mature than most fighters. I’m 39 years old. I think that maturity gives me calmness. I know what’s going to happen to me, and I know what’s going to happen to my opponent. As long as I know what I’m going to do, that’s all that matters.
What has been the highest point of your career thus far? Why? How about the lowest?
The highest point of my career so far has been moving to F3. It’s looking very good for me right now, new training partners, new coaches, everything looks good here. I wasn’t fighting as much as I’d like to at my other gym. I was just sort of waiting for my turn. As soon as I moved to this gym, it was like, hey let’s get you ready for another fight, let’s get you training, let’s get that rust out of your system, and hey, so far so good. It’s going my way.
And the lowest point?
My lowest was not fighting as much as I wanted to, not getting the fights, but putting in the training. There were other fighters at my old gym, and the Dallas-Fort Worth area is occupied with a lot of top fighters, and my former coaches didn’t pay as much attention to me as I would have liked. It’s understandable, because it’s their money. So I didn’t take it personal, but I was like hey, I want to get a piece of that my myself.
So, if I wasn’t getting the attention at that gym, I went to F3. And F3 was literally my last stop. And when I got here, it was so relieving. I have a lot of new training partners, that have a lot of dedication, and that feel that this is the best gym. We have a lot of talent here. It doesn’t matter who you are, or where you come from, we’ve got a lot of talent in this gym.
In 20 years when you’re looking back on your career, what would you have had to accomplish in order to think of it as a success? Why?
In 20-30 years I want to say, hey, I did it, just to get into the cage. Just to walk through the doors in the gym, it’s enough to say, hey, I did it. Not everybody can do it. They walk in the doors, and walk right out because it’s not for everyone. I just want to say, hey, I could do it, and I did it.
Other than your fight coming up on March 2, do you have anything that you’d like to plug? Would you like to shout out your school or coaches?
Yea, I’d like to give a shout out to my coaches at Fitness Fight Factory, Evan Cutts, Johnny Bedford, Rafael Casias. I’d like to shout out my training partners, some of the best teammates that you could ask for. I’d also like to give a shout out to Kevin Holland. These guys are the best individuals that you can hang around with and talk business. They’ll give you a heads up, any type of information when it comes to fights, anything that you need to make your game better, those are the guys.