Juan Archuleta: Setting His Legacy in Stone, One Record at a Time
There are many things that just naturally happen. The kid that liked building things out of Legos grows up to be an architect, the kid who liked to play doctor became a doctor and the kid who started wrestling at three years old became an MMA fighter. That last kid, his name is Juan “The Spaniard” Archuleta.
Archuleta (16-1 MMA) grew up in California with five older brothers who all found a love for wrestling. Soon, the Archuleta name became synonymous with the sport and when it was Juan’s turn during high school, he certainly lived up to the hype. However, he wasn’t able to break the family curse of not advancing past the semifinals. Ask him about it, he’ll tell the story but when he tells it, you can still tell it hurts just a little bit each time he shares it.
It didn’t keep him down though, in fact, despite an amazing amount of success in sports, his climb into the MMA record books hasn’t been as smooth as one of his double-leg takedowns. After graduating from high school with a GPA around 3.6, Archuleta had an offer from UC Davis to continue his wrestling career, even after sitting out his senior year of high school due to injury. The offer did come with a stipulation that he complete one year of junior college to prove he can handle the workload of college. Unfortunately, he didn’t have the maturity at the time to handle the freedom he acquired.
“I wasn’t going to class, it was my first year on my own,” said Archuleta. “I just had little bit of a young adult syndrome of doing what I wanted when I wanted and not knowing the repercussions.”
Because he didn’t fulfill his academic contract to get into UC Davis, he had to do one more year of junior college before he was admitted. So, he moved to Davis, California and attended Sacramento City College where the seed for MMA was planted into Archuleta’s life.
There he started training with Urijah Faber and his team including Joseph Benavidez. In fact, en route to becoming the California state champion in wrestling during junior college at his weight class, Archuleta only had two losses. One of them was to Chad Mendes.
After completing his second year at junior college and contemplating jumping into MMA, Archuleta transferred to Purdue to wrestle the best of the best in the nation. Shortly after completing his wrestling career at Purdue, he got a call from a friend asking if he was willing to be a wrestling partner for Gray Maynard to help prep him for the second Frankie Edgar fight.
That was the straw that broke the camel’s back, it didn’t take too long for Archuleta to miss the competition and he made the transition to become an MMA fighter. With not many willing to face him as an amateur, he quickly turned professional.
The script of Archuleta’s MMA career started out just like he planned it, he was quickly 4-0 with three finishes. While he was racking up wins, he worked full time. His days ran from six am to ten thirty at night without a break. The grueling schedule took its toll when he lost by submission to Andres Ponce at WSOF 19. It was after that fight, the person with the most influence in his life sat him down and told him what he had to do to be successful, after all, that’s part of a dad’s role.
“My dad is my biggest critic, Archuleta said. “He’s honest with me, he said ‘listen you either quit fighting, or you quit work. You can’t do both.’”
It took Archuleta a bit of time to recover from his first defeat, he was devastated. He wanted to end his career undefeated, but in the end, he thinks it made him even more dangerous.
“It took away the nerves of losing, fighting not to lose Archuleta said. “I love my job, I love showing up the day of fights and going out there and fight, there’s no nerves there’s no panic there’s nothing that I have to do. What’s the worst that’s going to happen I get knocked out or I get choked out and I wake up? That’s the worst that’s going to happen and it’s happened before. Now there’s no fear of it happening again for me. I just want to go out there and leave my legacy and give my best performance.”
And since then, that’s exactly what he has done, he’s picked up four titles at King of the Cage (KOTC) and continues to defend them. On December 3, he will defend his KOTC featherweight title against Mark “Tricky” Dickman. What is especially interesting about this fight is that it’s Archuleta’s last fight on his KOTC contract. He has previously had negotiations with organizations such as the UFC but has pushed them to the side because he wanted to honor his contract.
Now, however, he is willing to listen, but he wants to remain active even if it means fighting for another organization while he waits.
“If I’m in the middle of negotiations with contracts, then I’d love to stay active,” said Archuleta. “If it was up to me I’d fight eight times in one year. Last year I fought six times.”
At UFC 217, Archuleta made his way to the Octagon as part of T.J. Dillashaw’s corner. If December 3 goes his way, don’t be surprised to see Archuleta make the walk to the Octagon again, but this time, the lights will be shining brightly on him.