Damacio Page (top): Dave Mandel | Sherdog.com
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- While recovering from a shoulder injury that forced him to spend nearly 11 months away from the cage, Damacio Page did whatever he could to fill the crater-sized void in his life that fighting’s absence had created.
The 28-year-old bantamweight referred to the process as “surviving.” He worked on fixing up the houses and properties he owns in Albuquerque. He inked up clients at a local tattoo shop. Most of all, he watched. He watched as the 135-pound mountain in the WEC that he had worked so hard to ascend seemingly got steeper by the month. It was sometimes painful, but Page made the downtime productive.
“It’s real frustrating just watching people passing me for title shot after title shot -- Joseph Benavidez, Dominick Cruz and now Scott Jorgensen. They deserved a shot, [but] I was sidelined just watching it unfold,” he says. “In a way, it’s alright. It’s good because I was able to study everybody that’s fighting. No one knows how I fight anymore. They don’t know that I’ve switched up my style or what I’ve done. Even though it sucks because I couldn’t do anything, it’s good because I was able to study all the other fighters.”
The Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts product last fought at WEC 43 in October 2009, besting Will Campuzano with a rear-naked choke a little more than a minute into the first round. Originally scheduled to face Eddie Wineland at WEC 52 on Thursday at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, Page instead will meet Demetrious Johnson after Wineland withdrew from the bout with a shoulder injury.
Page was disappointed in losing the opportunity to square off against the heavy-handed Wineland, but after such a long layoff, he does not take his new opponent lightly.
“Johnson is a very exciting fighter, too,” Page says. “He’s very quick. He has good boxing. Either way, it’s going to be a great fight. The only thing that’s different is he doesn’t have a name. He’s a guy that’s equally as tough.”
Johnson, a member of the AMC Pankration camp, earned a unanimous decision over Nick Pace at WEC 51. He lost his promotional debut to American Top Team’s Brad Pickett at WEC 48. Page had teammate John Dodson emulate Johnson in camp. Dodson’s compact build and style closely resembles that of the fighter they call “Mighty Mouse.”
“Johnson is more my type of fighter,” Dodson says. “[I have to] be fast on my feet and keep switching my stance. [He] likes to bounce around a lot. [I have to] make sure [Page] sees a fast fighter instead of a power fighter like Wineland was.”
The comparison between Dodson and Johnson does not end with in-cage tendencies. Dodson is ranked 10th on Sherdog’s list of top flyweights, but Page believes Johnson is more comfortable at 125 pounds and will be at a size disadvantage at bantamweight.
“He’s tough. It doesn’t matter; I'm going to treat him like any other fighter,” Page says. “Who knows, he might be the next best thing at 125.”
The recurring nature of his shoulder injury has given “The Angel of Death” a glimpse into his fighting mortality. Most of the time, Page can go 100 percent in training without feeling any adverse effects on his shoulder, on which he underwent two separate surgeries for the torn labrum and partially torn rotator cuff he suffered against Campuzano. Sometimes, it flares up and provides a sobering reminder.
“You’re never 100 percent,” Page says. “I’ve talked to people who had shoulder injuries who got the same surgery. They say you’re not the same for a year, a year-and-a-half. It’s up and down sometimes. Sometimes it gets all inflamed and it hurts. You train hard, then you’re not 100 percent. If you’re not feeling aches and pains everywhere, then you’re not training hard enough.”
Travis Marx, a 135-pounder who came to New Mexico from Jeremy Horn’s Elite Performance team some five months ago, says Page has performed exactly like the WEC star he expected upon his arrival.
“Damacio’s an animal,” Marx says. “I love training with guys like him because they train very intensely and pull no punches. When you go with Damacio, you’ve got to be ready to go. That’s why he’s where he’s at -- because he trains hard and pushes himself.”
Dodson has worked out alongside Page for much longer, and he can see the improvements that have come with the time away.
“He’s coming in strong,” he says. “Since that time off, he’s had time to work more on his jabs, more on his striking, so he can see little areas he needs to work on. It’s actually helped him out tremendously because he’s thinking more. He’s actually getting more hungry for this fight.”
A victory over current number one contender Jorgensen, an 18-second knockout over Marcos Galvao and a quick submission over Campuzano have not satisfied Page.
“There’s not a defining moment yet,” he says. “I haven’t got the title.”
Rather than focus on past achievements, he looks forward to releasing his pent-up aggression against Johnson.
“I’m just gonna go out there and fight with a passion,” he says. “I just think it’s built up a lot more this time around. It was a long year. I’m able to focus all that energy and finally get it out.”