It’s easy for a professional athlete to re-evaluate their career after a bad game, a fighting season, a terrible loss, or something. It’s quite another thing to do it while winning.
And while Vicente Luque had far more wins than losses in the UFC, he knew he wasn’t making use of all the skills he’d been given.
Thus, after consecutive losses, he made a complete reassessment. He’d been out of the game since losing to Jeff Neal on August 6, 2022, and he knew he needed to make some positive changes. The results of those changes will be on display Saturday in Las Vegas at the Apex when he meets former lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos in the main event of UFC Vegas 78.
“Actually, I haven’t developed as much as I have in the time that I have,” Lockie told Yahoo Sports. “I was fighting a lot, so I didn’t change much. From one fight to the next, I had two or three months and that kind of made me anticipate. That’s how I felt when I fought Jeff, and he’s a really tough guy.”
The result is that he did not live up to his own standards. He said repeatedly during a conversation with Yahoo Sports that he had all the tools he needed to be on top, but he wasn’t always able to put it all together.
This was a bit harsh, as he battles Dos Anjos 21-9, and has beaten the likes of former champions Tyrone Woodley, Bilal Muhammad, Jalen Turner, Nico Price and Michael Chiesa, among others.
But Luque doesn’t want to be just another guy, and the harsh reality of his position is that no matter how talented he is, no matter how hard he works, he’s only 4-3 in his last seven. In such a competitive division, walking through water like that wouldn’t get him anywhere near where he wanted to be.
He moved full time to Florida to work regularly with coach Henry Hooft and his staff. He thought about his performance against Neil and it was clear that changes had to be made. He had worked with Hooft part-time since 2014, but did the bulk of his training in his native Brazil. After losing to Neil, he decides he needs fundamental changes.
It was all over it. He wasn’t putting anything on his coaches in Brazil. He was stubborn—and still, he said, laughing a little—and wasn’t open to making amends until he had to.
“It was hard for me at that point because I wasn’t able to just react,” said Lockie. “I was closing my mind on everything but what I was doing. That’s why I said I needed to reinvent myself.”
Luque is confident that the changes he has made will change his fortunes. He’s excited to see how it works against Dos Anjos, a 38-year-old whom he obviously respects a lot.
Luque was younger and perhaps more athletic at this point, but dos Anjos had learned how to make his skills work for him. This is what Loki is trying to do.
“I feel like this fight is the perfect fight for the moment I’m in,” Locky said. “There’s no better way to test yourself and see where you’ve grown than against a guy like RDA, an ex-champion and a guy who’s fought many fives and a guy of great quality. In retrospect, it might have been a tougher fight in the sense that I would have thought, ‘Yeah. I’m not sure this is a good match for me.”
“But now, I have no doubts how good this fight is for me because it will put me to the test and allow me to show all my development, everything I’ve trained for.”
Luque is confident, but he’s also a realist and he’s definitely not trying to fool himself. He believes he has done the work and made the changes he needs for a while. But he knows it’s one thing to do it in the gym, where the trainers control the environment and the drills can be done repeatedly until he gets it right.
It’s often different when the flashing lights and TV cameras work and Luque knows the ultimate proof is to do just that on fight night.