One of the biggest things we take for granted as human beings is the use of our hands. It’s difficult to imagine what life would be like if we couldn’t use one hand for any length of time.
That was the reality for Legacy Fighting Alliance featherweight champion Kevin Aguilar following his title defense last year. Aguilar retained his belt after defeating Justin Rader at LFA 18, but not before breaking his hand and not having the use of it for roughly three months.
“It happened in the last 10 seconds of the first round,” Aguilar told Combat Press. “I told myself that I had a good four rounds of adrenaline left, and there was no way I was telling my corner. It started hurting in the fifth round, and when I cut the gloves off after the fight, my hand was about as big as a catcher’s mitt.”
While making sure his hand healed properly and didn’t become infected, Aguilar not only learned to write left-handed but also remained active in the gym by working on his jab. He continued his routine, despite injury.
“I have a never-give-up attitude, and I make sure my heart and my mindset is always right,” Aguilar said. “I always see myself winning the fight, no matter what. Whenever I step in the cage, nothing’s more important than my heart and mind working right. And you never stop learning as a martial artist. You learn from every fight and you learn from every training session.”
Aguilar’s title defense against Rader was his second since becoming champion. His first defense was a knockout victory over Damon Jackson at LFA 4 in February 2017.
“I came out strong and implemented my game plan, and I broke his will in the first round,” Aguilar said. “He took me down in the second round and tried to do some work on me, but I survived and I had an opening in the third round.”
Aguilar’s hand injury during his title defense against Rader led to the LFA’s crowning of an interim featherweight champion when Thanh Le won the belt at LFA 31 earlier this year. The 13-1 Aguilar and Le, whose record sits at 8-1, will tangle in a title-unification bout at LFA 40 on Friday, May 25. Interim titles have become increasingly commonplace in MMA, and particularly in the UFC, but Aguilar is not a big fan of this trend.
“There’s only one champion. You don’t need to make another belt,” he said. “I wasn’t gone that long, so you can have the other guy step up and wait for the champion to get healthy. He earned his shot and is going to be a tough opponent and he’s hungry to beat me, so it’s going to be an exciting fight. But I’ve never been more focused and ready.”
Aguilar is hopeful that a victory over Le will allow him to follow in the footsteps of other LFA fighters who made the jump to the UFC. He believes he has been on the promotion’s radar after competing in both the LFA and its former incarnation, Legacy Fighting Championships, since 2013.
“It’s a great organization. I love LFA,” Aguilar said. “They’ve been great to me, and I put on great fights for them. All of my fights for Legacy have been amazing. Hopefully I get the call from the UFC after this to fight the next day or the next year — or else I’ll just come back and get ready for my next LFA title fight.”
Aguilar previously stated that if he made it to the UFC, his dream opponent would be former lightweight champion Conor McGregor. However, the current LFA featherweight champ now has a fellow titleholder in the same weight class on his radar.
“Conor isn’t relevant anymore,” Aguilar said. “He’s off being a billionaire and doing stupid crap. Max Holloway is the guy now. Every fighter should be gunning for the top guy in their division.”
If Aguilar unifies his featherweight title this Friday, he may just get the call from UFC President Dana White. Look out, Max Holloway.