(Beltran “Mexicutes” Rolles Gracie at UFC 109.)
Joey Beltran has a weekly ritual. On Thursday evenings, “The Mexicutioner” attends the local farmer’s market in Oceanside, California and gets his grub on. “I make it a point to come down here and sample some of the delicacies every week. Last week I had some soul food, so this week, I kept it real with some Mexican tacos,” he says with a chuckle. “They got tons of good food, and booths and crafts set up. I like it. I really like it.”
This coming Saturday Night, however, it’s all business as he is slated to battle “The Thrash Machine” Tim Hague at UFC 113: Machida Vs. Shogun II. While this marks his second fight inside the Octagon, it also serves as a reminder as to how quickly a fighter’s career can turn around.
Beltran, an aggressive striker with a boxing pedigree, wrestling background and a jiu-jitsu blue belt, began training at North County Fight Club in 2006. Six months later, he made his debut in a losing effort against Yohan Banks on the Strikeforce: Young Guns card. The 6’1”, 240-pound “Mexicutioner” bounced back with six victories and a loss to Tony Lopez, which ultimately earned an invitation with upstart Bellator FC.
Though Beltran was locked into a four-fight deal and punched out Sherman Pendergarst in a special attraction, he was granted his release. According to Beltran, CEO Bjorn Rebney wasn’t a fan.
“I really thought I was gonna grow with the Bellator brand and thought that was gonna be my home for a while, but Bjorn Rebney didn’t like my style,” Beltran recalls. “As he put it to my manager (Matt Stansell), I think the exact quote was, ‘He looks like an idiot, swinging his arms. He looks like a gangbanger, streetfighter,” and said I would never fight in a big promotion and was a waste of time. I was like, ‘Really? That’s funny to me,’ because the night of that fight, Bjorn came up to me and was like, ‘That’s exactly what we want. It was an exciting fight,’ so I guess he was completely blowing stuff up my ass.”
Bellator did not respond to FIGHT!’s request for comment.
Beltran continued his winning ways at smaller shows and even re-matched Tony Lopez for the King Of The Cage Heavyweight Championship in October 2009. Despite going the distance and losing via unanimous decision, he would start 2010 in explosive fashion.
This past January, the Cali native fought Houston Alexander, who had recently received his UFC walking papers after an uninspired performance against Kimbo Slice. Beltran knocked “The Assassin” out in the second round. Three weeks later, he was offered a fight in the UFC.
“I knew it was a matter of time,” Beltran says. “I felt it and I knew it, but I didn’t think it would be that quick. I honestly thought I was gonna have to fill in for someone on The Ultimate Fighter: Heavyweights Finale or something like that. But when opportunity knocks, you gotta go.” Despite Gracie being heavily hyped, Beltran weathered the storm and TKOed him in the second round at UFC 109: Relentless in February.
In just four weeks, Beltran went from defeating a one-time UFC Light Heavyweight contender at a local event to beating the next big Gracie on a UFC pay per view card. He has bragging rights, but he doesn’t use them. His ego remains in check.
“I’m lucky to have family and my friends around. They’ll make sure I keep my head on straight,” he says. “It’s like, ‘Yeah, I fought in the UFC and came home.’ The first thing I got welcomed [to] was my mom yelling at me to pay my parking tickets now because I had money. You know? That’s kinda the people I have around.”
Beltran was originally slated to fight fellow rising star Chad Corvin at UFC 113: Machida Vs. Shogun II, but Corvin was forced to pull out of the contest. Instead, he’ll face Tim Hague, who had been recently cut after a majority decision loss to Chris Tuchscherer.
Though the “Mexicutioner” is known as a brawler, he is looking to showcase a more advanced skill set … and physique. “I definitely wanna use my footwork and set up my strikes instead of just being bull in a china closet and running straight ‘cause Tim’s a big dude. His strikes are pretty slow, but that’s 280 pounds becoming behind those freakin’ hands that he’s got. So I gotta be aware of that,” Beltran explains. “I gotta show what I improved and worked on for the past few months. And also, I wanna look better on TV. I know the last time I was pretty chubby on camera.”