pretty chillin story I found on UFC.com about an up and comer in the UFC...thought you might like to read it:
With only six sanctioned pro fights Related News
to his name, you may wonder if Joe Veres’ UFC debut Wednesday against Gray Maynard is a case of ‘too much, too soon’. But dig a little deeper, and you’ll find out that the Arizona resident is not only ready for prime time, but that he’s more than paid his dues over the course of his five year mixed martial arts career.
And it’s not only from his training sessions with some of the top names in the game, fighters like former UFC champions Rich Franklin, Kevin Randleman, and Mark Coleman, as well as contenders Jorge Gurgel, Joe Riggs, and Edwin Dewees, but it’s the little things Veres has gone through which stamp him as having earned his spot in the Octagon – like warming up in a mechanic’s garage for a fight, fighting in a VFW hall far removed from the bright lights of Las Vegas, or taking on an opponent only introduced as ‘Slash’, whose record was announced as “ask everybody around town.”
It’s in situations like these where fighters prove themselves of not only having the talent to compete at the UFC level, but of having the mental fortitude to last in this game. So when fighting the aforementioned “Slash”, and the cage door broke and he had to still keep his head straight and stick to his gameplan to get the victory, Veres was thinking of more than just armbars and left hooks – he was thinking of his future.
“The whole time,” remembered Veres, “I’m thinking, I can’t lose to this guy because if I lose to this guy in this place, somebody’s gonna hear about it and I’m gonna have to get a bunch of other wins to get back to where I was five minutes ago.”
What makes it worse is that Veres, a three-time Division II All-American wrestler for Ashland University, like many successful college wrestlers, was blessed with the curse of expectations from the time he laced up the mitts.
“I think since I got in the game, everybody always said, ‘man, you’ve got the potential to be one of the best, you’re gonna get your UFC shot one day,’” he recalls. “So it’s always in the back of your mind.”
Veres’ talent and determination allowed him to make it out the other side though, and after winning five of his six pro fights, he finally got the call to fight in the UFC.
“I thought it would be a lot quicker,” he admits, “but at the same time, I really tried to do my best to make sure I kept training the way I was. I didn’t want to jump into a fight just to get into a fight. I wanted to make sure I was always working on the skills that I needed, and I think if I would have had more opportunities to fight and things would have worked out better for me, I probably would have gotten a UFC chance earlier, but I also know that everything happens for a reason and for me to get my UFC shot now, this is the time and the place where it was supposed to be, so I’m completely happy with that.”
He also gets to do it against a fellow wrestler in Maynard, a cast member from season five of The Ultimate Fighter who is looking for his first UFC win after a controversial no contest against Rob Emerson earlier this year.
“I prefer fighting a wrestler right now because I know where his strength is,” said Veres of his opponent. “If I was fighting a striker who was good, I would be questioning whether he was a good striker with his hands or his feet. I know what Gray is about. He’s an excellent wrestler, has great credentials, great ability, and he’s a great athlete, but as of right now, I’ll take anybody the UFC gives me. If they give me another wrestler, I’ll take it, and it’s all thumbs up from there.”
And when that call finally came, it was greeted with knowing smiles from his current training partners, UFC vets Riggs and Dewees.
“When I talk to them about having this opportunity, they give me the big smile and the congratulations, but at the same time, they tell you that now this is the time when you can really fight and let it all hang out,” he said. “You don’t have to worry and say ‘man, if I take a loss here do I have to win four more to get my UFC shot?’ Now that I have it, I don’t have to hold back, I don’t have to have this worry about having to perform well to get to the next level. This is the best of the best, the Super Bowl of MMA, and to be here, now it’s just time to fight, have no worries, and enjoy it.”
That’s what he plans on doing too. There is no wailing or gnashing of teeth as he stresses about his first UFC fight. Veres has waited a long time for this moment, and he wants to soak everything in, not shy away from it and hope it ends quickly. It’s a different approach from some debutants.
“I definitely would have to commend the years of wrestling that I had,” he explains. “I’ve been wrestling since I was seven, been in a lot of big tournaments, and I’ve dealt with this my entire life and learned to not get complacent. Don’t get happy because you made it to the big show. My goal was never ‘I want to get into the UFC and fight one time.’ I want to be the best of the best and I’ve got a lot to prove to myself. So this is fantastic, but it’s not the finale for me. I want to have that belt, I want to be the best, and I want to be known as one of the legends of the game. I think as long as I keep that mentality, I’m not going to get caught up.”
Plus, being in Vegas in September allows him to get a brief respite from his day job as a fifth grade teacher in Arizona. And while an early vacation from giving homework is never a bad thing, don’t call the 30-year old Veres a part-time fighter.
“People ask me why I keep working and why don’t I train full-time,” said Veres, who is also taking classes to get his Masters Degree in Administration. “And my answer is, ‘I do train full-time.’ I’m always training way before school; as soon as school lets out I’m in the gym until about 9:30-10:00 and I don’t stop. But it (teaching) is a passion of mine. I want to give back to kids and if I can say ‘I’m a professional fighter, but at the same time I’m an educator and you can do both things.’ That’s the part of the sport I want to portray to people.”
Veres’ commitment to the community doesn’t end there though, as he is also the founder and CEO of the non-profit organization, SchooleMale.
“We try to encourage more men to become a part of education,” said Veres of the organization he launched in January 2007. “We’ve gotten dads, grandpas, uncles, brothers, and community leaders to become more involved in school and volunteer their time in the classroom. We also go out to colleges to try to recruit more men to become educators.”
“When I got engaged to Julie, my fiancée, she had just gone through a pretty tough time and did a lot by herself,” Veres continues. “And as a teacher, I saw numerous times that Mom was always the one that was involved and you didn’t hear from Dad very often. Dad didn’t come to the conferences, and I never had a Dad volunteer ever. Men are so important in kids’ lives, and with the divorce rates and single family homes, there are a lot of kids that I meet where I’m the first male teacher they’ve ever had or I’m the only male they see, and I can do my part, but besides that, I want to bring as many men as I can to encourage these kids. If a kid comes from a family where they don’t see Dad and they go to school and 80% of the staff members are female, and there are no male volunteers, where are they ever going to witness a man valuing education? I just want to give more opportunities to kids to see men valuing education so they can better their lives and have success through education.”
The organization has been a resounding success so far, and by all accounts, Veres is a good guy with a good head on his shoulders. Yet that doesn’t make explaining his night job to his parents and sisters any easier.
“That’s probably been one of the most difficult things to explain to my family because they know where I’ve fought before,” said Veres. “So now, when I tell my family – especially the ones that I don’t see everyday, like my mom, my dad, and my sister – that I got my UFC shot, they’re like, ‘oh just be careful; you’ve got a family now.’ (Laughs) It’s so hard to tell them that these aren’t the same places where I fought before. I don’t have to worry about fighting a guy named Slash, whose record was “ask everybody around town.” It’s not the same anymore. These are the best of the best, these are the best athletes in the game, and you’ve got the best judges, the best referees, and the best medical staff. Before, I had to be the judge, the referee, and the audience.”
Now, Joe Veres just has to fight, and that’s fine with him, as he plans on making a memorable first impression.
“I just want to turn some heads,” he said. “I know a lot of people welcomed Gray into their house through the reality TV show, and here comes this new guy that they may never have heard of before. But I want them to say ‘man, this guy’s got more heart than anyone we’ve ever seen. I’m gonna put it all on the line and I want people to say ‘when’s Joe Veres gonna fight again?’”