Dan Ige and Punahele Soriano always envisioned a time where they could compete on the same UFC card. They will be doing exactly what they have always envisioned in their back-to-back fights on Saturday’s main card.
Ige will face Damon Jackson in a crucial featherweight matchup at UFC Vegas 67,, while Soriano takes on Roman Kopylov earlier in a clash of middleweights.
For Eric Nicksick (Xtreme Couture’s head coach), it is a moment of special significance to see Soriano and Ige rise in MMA from their very beginnings.
“I think it’s one of the coolest stories in MMA right now, positive stories,” Nicksick told MMA Fighting. “You have two childhood friends that grew up together in Hawaii, they went to high school together, that had this vision and this goal for one another at such a young age. They used to talk about this on the school bus. “Hey, man! Maybe one day you will fight in the UFC with me .’
“Having someone that is next to you with that same vision and same purpose, rowing the boat in the same direction, having the same goals, that one day maybe when you’re tired or you don’t feel like you can make it, the other guy is pushing you.
Both fighters worked their way up the local scene, striving to achieve their goals of getting to the UFC. Ige was the first to arrive, while Soriano did so less than two years later. Coincidentally enough, they both earned their spots the same way — earning contracts on Dana White‘s Contender Series.
Nicksick witnessed Soriano and Ige grow up in MMA. They made the decision to move to Las Vegas from Hawaii, to pursue their UFC goals. From grade school, through the land of higher education, to the cages of mixed martial arts, Ige and Soriano have done it side-by-side.
” They went to college together. Then Dan, on a whim, decided to relocate to Vegas to train here at Xtreme Couture. He was able convince Puna shortly afterwards. It’s an amazing story .”
to see them grow from regional scenes to being together in the same room.
Ige at UFC Vegas 67, Ige aims to get his career back on track following three decision defeats in the past. The UFC’s featherweight division has had a tough schedule over the last couple of years. Ige won wins over Mirsad Bektic and Edson Barboza and lost to Gavin Tucker. He also dropped decision decisions against Calvin Kattar and “The Korean Zombie”, Chan Sung Jung and Josh Emmett. Now he’ll face another surging contender in Jackson, who enters the bout on an impressive four-fight win streak.
Soriano started his professional career with eight consecutive victories. Then, he suffered his first two losses in consecutive bouts against Brendan Allen (and Nick Maximov) — and then he lost his second pro fight. “Puna” got back to his winning ways this past July at UFC Long Island when he stopped Dalcha Lungiambula via knockout in the second round. He now faces Kopylov, who was in the exact same boat, having snapped a two-fight skid after an 8-0 pro start with a finish of his own against Alessio Di Chirico at UFC Paris.
Now the childhood and lifelong friends will do battle inside the octagon in consecutive bouts. While Nicksick sees both guys playing it off like it’s just another day at the office, he’s been around Ige and Soriano long enough to know Saturday is much more meaningful than that.
” They’ll tell you it’s just business as usual but I’m sure [there’s more to it],” Nicksick has more. Puna is an exuberant dude. He runs about all giddy and says, “This is fun,” which is our man. Ige is very business-like and structured, but then when it comes to knowing Puna is on the same card as him, he’s been super stoked about the whole situation as well.
“It has to have been a childhood goal for these two guys. He is the best. It was an honor to have been able to watch their competition .”