After five years since the last edition of The Ultimate Fighter Latin America, the door of the UFC has reopened in a big way for the region and 2022 will bring at least ten debuts, most of them thanks to Dana White’s Contender Series, where Latinos shone in 2021.
With the first champion from Mexico in Brandon Moreno and a Latin queen at 135 pounds with Julianna Peña, the UFC’s starting year looks promising for the region. Many of the new faces are ready to make an impact and others are very close to the top level, dominating regional leagues.
Here is a list of the fighters from Mexico and Latin America that we will see debut in the coming months or that could do so with one more victory in their records. It does not include athletes who are under contract with other promoters, which would prevent their debut from being presented in the following year.
Genaro Valdez (Baja California Sur, Mexico)
Valdez is 10-0 as a professional and 13-0 as an amateur. He has finished his opponents in all his fights, a mark rarely seen.
The 29-year-old will make his UFC 270 debut against Matt Frevola after knocking out dangerous Patrik White at the Dana White Contender Series. He previously shone in local promoters such as Lux Fight League, Combate Americas and UWC. The Tijuana Entram Gym prospect was able to make his first camp alongside Brandon Moreno, who was in his corner in his last fight.
Daniel Zellhuber (State of Mexico, Mexico)
The ‘Golden Boy’ does not know defeat as a professional (12-0) and is a lightweight with impressive conditions. With great scope and versatility, he defeated a highly respected opponent like Lucas Almeida in the Contender Series.
Zellhuber recorded victories in the Ikon Fighting Federation and Lux Fight League in the last year before coming to the big test against Dana White. His UFC debut will come in the second half of 2022.
Michael Morales (El Oro, Ecuador)
The Ecuadorian is just 22 years old and already has a 12-0 record. He has an outstanding fight for South America and caught the attention of coach Raúl Arvizu, who took him to train in Tijuana.
After a UWC fight in Mexico, Morales showed that he was up for big things and defeated Nikolay Veretennikov in the Contender Series in a dominant fashion in the eyes of the UFC president.
Víctor Altamirano (Mexico City, Mexico)
‘El Magnífico’ is 10-1 and will debut in the UFC on February 26 against Carlos Hernández. They both got their contracts at Dana White’s Contender Series, but Victor’s debut seemed a matter of time. Although he was born in Mexico City, he has lived in Texas since he was 11 years old and spent practically his entire career in one of the greatest hotbeds of talent for the UFC, the promoter LFA, where he became a flyweight champion in February 2021.
Piera Rodríguez (Maracaibo, Venezuela)
With a 7-0 record, ‘La Fiera’ has had to fight in Panama and Spain before arriving in the United States, where winning the LFA championship at 115 pounds catapulted her into the Contender Series heading to a victory over the Brazilian Valesca Machado .
The Venezuelan currently combines camps between California and various gyms in Europe and awaits her debut date after being hired.
Fernando Padilla (Chihuahua, Mexico)
‘El Valiente’ (14-4) secured his presence in the UFC in an episode of Dana White’s Looking for a Fight where he was crowned the 145-pound champion of Fury FC in Houston in May 2021. He trains in the renowned Team Oyama of California with fighters like Alex Pérez, Chito Vera and Carla Esparza.
Padilla began his career in local promotions in Chihuahua, but achieved notoriety in the LFA. His debut was scheduled for the month of October, although now he is waiting for a new date.
Carlos Hernández (Chicago, Illinois)
With a 7-1 record, the Valle Flow team member in Chicago is coming off a highly technical fight with Spaniard Daniel Barez in the Contender Series. Before that, he also went through the LFA and was a champion in the regional Hoosier Fight Club.
He is a partner of UFC fighters such as Ignacio Bahamondes, Belal Muhammad and the bantamweight champion Julianna Peña, in addition to the Mexicans Horacio Gutiérrez, Alejandro Flores and Enrique González; his debut will arrive on February 26 against Altamirano.
Fernie Garcia (El Paso, Texas)
Although born in the United States, Fernando García grew up in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua and is 10-1. He also landed his Contender Series contract with a solid knockout of Joshua Weems in the first round.
Hailing from the Fortis MMA gym in the Dallas, Texas area, his foundation is wrestling and jiu-jitsu, but he prefers to fight standing up to make fights more exciting and honor the Mexican fighting spirit. He awaits the date of his debut at the UFC bantamweight.
Manuel Torres (Chihuahua, Mexico)
The ‘Loco’ (12-2) from Ciudad Madera has an aggressive style and is always looking to finish early, as he did against Kolton Englund in Contender Series by TKO in the first round in October and previously in June with a submission in 25 seconds in his last UWC fight in Mexico.
In fact, the fighter from the Entram Gym in Tijuana has 10 first-round finishes in his professional career. He can fight at 145 or 155 pounds and is still waiting for the date for his first fight in the UFC.
Christian Quiñonez (Zacatecas, Mexico)
The younger brother of former UFC José Alberto ‘Teco’ Quiñonez amasses a 16-3 record and at the age of 25 he has a long history as a promise for promotion. He achieved his goal in October when he beat Chinese Long Xiao and received the news of his signing at the DWCS.
Quiñonez has a long history in local promotions in Mexico such as UWC and XFL, as well as Combate Americas and Jungle Fight in Brazil. Like Torres, he trains in Tijuana and will soon make his Octagon debut.
Those who knock on the door
Roybert Echeverría (Monagas, Venezuela)
The explosive flyweight ‘Unbroken Roy’ remains undefeated in seven bouts and continues to make noise in Florida promoter Titan FC. Like most Venezuelan fighters, he has gone out to find competitive gyms and has developed in the Miami area.
Very soon an opportunity could come to him in the Contender Series or directly in the UFC, which is amassing more and more talent at 125 pounds.
Andrés Luna Martinetti (Guayaquil, Ecuador)
The undefeated Ecuadorian who has been in Mexico since 2021 is 12-0 and achieved finishes in his last two UWC fights on Mexican soil.
He is part of a group of fifty South American fighters looking for an opportunity in the UFC while they train in Tijuana. Luna Martinetti, 26, has the ability to submit or knock out and is one of the clearest options to seek a contract in the Contender Series in the second half of 2022.
Sergio Cossio (Durango, Mexico)
The Lux Fight League lightweight champion is 13-6 and looks ready for a shot at the top level. ‘Drako’ debuted at Lux with a spectacular three-round war against former UFC Mike de la Torre and has been 7-1 in the promoter ever since. In addition, he beat former Costa Rican UFC Allan Zúñiga.
Cossio is coming off submitting Alan Domínguez in the first round to retain the championship and although he could defend again at Lux, he would seek his Contender Series contract as his predecessor to the promotion’s 155-pound throne, Chile’s Bahamondes.
Alberto Montes (Barquisimeto, Venezuela)
‘The Promise’ came very close to participating in the Dana White’s Contender Series in both 2019 and 2021, but an injury and then administrative complications sidelined him from the opportunity.
With a 5-1 record, the MMA Masters fighter is also based in Florida where he has performed at Titan FC and although on the last occasion he fell in a short notice fight, he remains a promise in the near future for the 135 pounds from the UFC.
Iván Valenzuela (Veracruz, Mexico)
With a long career in muay thai and 7-1 in mixed martial arts, the Veracruz was crowned in the 185 pounds of the Mexican promoter Lux Fight League by beating the Ecuadorian Ricardo Centeno.
His only loss came at 170 pounds and it seems difficult for him to find his level competition in Latin America at middleweight, so 2022 could be the year in which he appears in the anteroom of the UFC.
Alfonso Leyva (Jalisco, Mexico)
The two-time Mexican Olympian in Greco-Roman wrestling returned to MMA in November at UWC, after competing in Tokyo 2020 and is now 5-0.
With the floor fighting base, Leyva has also developed power in her standing fight, as all her victories are by way of knockout and she has never traveled the distance. He might still have more than one fight before seeking a spot in the UFC, but he’s on the right track and is one of the more advanced prospects at Entram Gym in Tijuana.