LAS VEGAS – Maki Pitolo saw a massive opportunity slip from his hands last year, when he was forced out of Dana White’s Contender Series 13 due to a shoulder injury.
He got another chance Tuesday night at Dana White’s Contender Series 19 and took out Justin Sumter in a middleweight bout, with a barrage of body shots in the first round, earning a UFC contract.
UFC president Dana White was impressed with “Coconut Bombz” but said he’d like Pitolo to move down a weight class.
“Yeah, I fought the majority of my career in the welterweight division,” Pitolo told reporters, including MMA Junkie, post-fight at the UFC Apex facility. “If I can make that trek back to the 170-pound division, then I will. That’s where he wants me, that’s where I’m going to be, that’s where I’m going to reign supreme.”
Now in the big leagues, Pitolo hopes he can work with the right people to ensure that his cut down to 170 pounds is a healthy and efficient one.
“My first kickboxing fight was at 220 (pounds),” Pitolo said. “I’m a natural Polynesian, I got big bones, and cutting weight, I didn’t really know how to do, so if I can get up there with the world’s best and learn how to do it the right way, I’m sure I’ll be in great hands and be an even better fighter.”
After getting cracked and stumbled early with a right hand, Pitolo started pressuring Sumter, backing him against the cage. He then unloaded with several body punches and was able to get his opponent out of there in under two minutes.
“It was right after I landed the first one, I heard him, ‘Ugh,’ give a little sign,” Pitolo said. “You’re fighting, you’re looking for any type of weaknesses your opponent is showing you, and that was one I just heard while I was throwing the punches, and I threw that body shot and was like, ‘Let me go one more time.’”
“I felt like he was hurt, and it ended up paying off that he was hurt, and he ended up dropping, and I just finished the fight there. Anytime I get to finish the fight, I will.”
Training out of Wainaii, Hawaii, Pitolo joins the likes of current featherweight champion Max Holloway and perennial contenders Yancy Medeiros and Brad Tavares, among others, as Hawaiians on the UFC roster.
Pitolo said he felt the love and support Tuesday night, making the most of his second chance at a UFC contract.
“The support is real; I mean all of the Hawaii boys, it’s like the Brazilians,” Pitolo said. “We all got to come together when we’re off the island and on the island and when we’re back home, we’re with whoever the elite fighters is, and we’re all mixing it up and growing so when we do come out here, people do know that we’re not just back home slacking, laying on hammocks and chilling on the beach. We’re putting in work, six-to-10 hour days and we’re just as elite as all the other guys out there.”
“Words can’t explain. I’m super happy. It’s been a long road for me, a lot of ups and downs, but I love this game and this game has made me who I am today, and I’m just stoked.”
To hear more from Pitolo, check out the video above.
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Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie
Read the full article here: Maki Pitolo agrees with Dana White, will return to welterweight for UFC run