"I thought I was Khabib" - UFC Louisville winner almost quit MMA before securing first victory in two years

Punahele Soriano shares his thoughts following his victory at UFC Louisville [Image via: @punahele_soriano on Instagram]
Punahele Soriano shares his thoughts following his victory at UFC Louisville [Image via: @punahele_soriano on Instagram]

A UFC fighter recently expressed his thoughts after securing his first victory at the recently concluded Fight Night event in Louisville. The event took place this Saturday at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky.

The fighter in question is Punahele Soriano, who made his welterweight debut against Miguel Baeza on the main card of UFC Louisville. Soriano entered the bout with a two-fight losing streak against Roman Kopylov and Dustin Stoltzfus at UFC Vegas 67 and UFC Fight Night Austin, respectively. His last victory occurred at UFC Long Island in 2022 against Dalcha Lungiambula.

Meanwhile, Baeza was coming off a three-fight losing streak. His last win came four years ago against Takashi Sato at UFC Vegas 15.

Soriano demonstrated a tremendous work ethic from start to finish, forcing Baeza to the ground several times and continuously beating him up with ground and pound. He wasn't able to pull off a finish, but he still won by unanimous decision (30-25, 30-25, 30-27).

In the post-fight interview, Soriano talked candidly about the difficulties he faced leading up to the fight. He said:

''The whole camp, I felt so much pressure. Every day, I was contemplating whether I could still do this, whether if this is for me and if I could deal with this."

Soriano added:

''I thought I was Khabib. I thought I had a big afro on my head, and I was going to come out speaking Dagestan or whatever they speak. I wasn’t sure who I was anymore.”

On a two-bout losing streak and 1-4 in his last five fights, Soriano had doubts entering the fight. He even thought about retirement, saying:

''I said this a few times, but I was contemplating retirement backstage and thanks to my man Mike at the (UFC Performance Institute), I just let go of that balloon and started thinking about something I cared about.''

Check out Punahele Soriano's comments below:

Punahele Soriano discusses fighting at welterweight at UFC Louisville

Punahele Soriano moved down to welterweight for his matchup against Miguel Baeza at UFC Louisville. Despite being 1-4 in his last five octagon outings, Soriano put up an impressive performance and defeated Baeza via unanimous decision.

Following the fight, Soriano spoke to Paul Felder inside the ring and expressed his thoughts on fighting at welterweight.

''You know that bridge, that bridge across the way. If I lost I was going to jump off that bridge but I'm glad I'm not jumping off tonight. I'm probably going to od on some Bourbon and it feels great.''

Check out Punahele Soriano's comments below (0:55):


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Edited by Anurag Mitra
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