Joey Villasenor has enrolled at Central New Mexico Community College. | Photo: Dave Mandel
Joey Villasenor has fought all over the world in promotions ranging from Deep and Pride Fighting Championships in Japan to Strikeforce and EliteXC in North America.
However, Villasenor’s latest challenge is not in an MMA cage or ring but in the classroom.
“Right now, I’m going back to school,” said Villasenor, who is currently taking classes at Central New Mexico Community College in Albuquerque, N.M. “I didn’t have any fights materialize in the first half [of 2011] because it’s a tough market.”
The 35-year-old Villasenor last fought in September, when he dropped a unanimous decision to late substitute Danillo Villefort at Shark Fights 13. He has spent his time since furthering his education in preparation for life after fighting.
“I’ve been out of school for 17 years,” said Villasenor, who has 22 finishes among his 27 professional victories. “I wanted to challenge myself. I wanted to venture outside of fighting and get the basics of a college education out of the way. I know after I quit fighting I’m going to be coach [at Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts], but I wanted to get an education for my own benefit. It’s challenging, but it’s fun and exciting.”
Villasenor owns notable victories over Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos, Phil Baroni, Riki Fukuda, David Loiseau, Yuya Shirai, Jorge Santiago and Tim Credeur. When he returns to fighting, he will bring a two-bout losing streak with him. Prior to his defeat to Villefort, he lost a unanimous decision to current Strikeforce middleweight champion Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza at Strikeforce “Heavy Artillery” in May. The defeat to Souza snapped a four-fight winning streak for Villasenor.
“When I fought [Villefort], I was scheduled to take on Drew McFedries and he got hurt the week before the fight,” he said. “He took the fight late and I lost the decision. It wasn’t the kind of fight that fans would appreciate. He got me on the mat and controlled me on the floor.
“I wasn’t prepared to defend his takedowns or work on my sweeps like I needed to,” Villasenor added. “You have to give him credit for winning, but if I’d had the opportunity to really train for him, things might have been different.”
Following the loss to Villefort, Strikeforce released Villasenor from his contract. However, being cut was not something he necessarily minded.
“I wasn’t fighting [in Strikeforce] as much as I wanted,” said Villasenor. “When I was with EliteXC, they kept me busy. I didn’t get to fight as much as I wanted when I was with Strikeforce. [Souza] was a great opponent for me and Strikeforce gave me good competition, but it just wasn’t often enough for me.”
Villasenor will return to the cage on May 27, when he meets Chris Camozzi at Shark Fights 15. With a career that started back in April 1999 and now spans parts of three decades, he knows his time in the spotlight may be running short. Still, Villasenor does not plan on going quietly.