James Vick will take on former World Series of Fighting champion Justin Gaethje in the UFC Fight Night 135 main event on Saturday at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska. There, “The Texecutioner” looks to extend his current winning streak to five fights and in doing so solidify himself as a legitimate title contender in the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s lightweight division.
Ahead of Vick’s anticipated clash with Gaethje, here are five things you might not know about him:
1. He was a late arrival in combat sports.
The 6-foot-3 Vick played basketball at school, and while he had no formal martial arts training during his formative years, his pugilistic nature was apparent at a young age. He admits he engaged in plenty of fights while growing up. Vick started boxing at the age of 20 and two years later shifted gears to mixed martial arts. He made his professional debut in 2011 after just two years of training and submitted Cody Carrillo with a rear-naked choke at an Undisputed MMA event in Amarillo, Texas.
2. He was something of a vagabond in the labor force.
Prior to becoming a full-time athlete, Vick worked at three oil fields. He has stated in interviews that he quit one job in order to have more time to devote to MMA. To earn a living on his way up the full-contact-fighting ladder, Vick accepted a position at Target, where the hours offered him more flexibility when it came to training. He has also worked as a bouncer and a waiter.
3. He has a lot of hobbies.
Vick is an avid outdoorsman who likes to cycle and fish, but hunting remains his favorite pastime. He often posts photographs of his hunting trips online, with his preferred quarry being feral hogs. When Vick is not training or indulging in the aforementioned outdoor activities, he enjoys watching boxing and spending time with his son.
4. He competed on Season 15 of “The Ultimate Fighter.”
Vick was one of 32 lightweights invited to compete on the reality show in 2012. He defeated Dakota Cochrane in qualifying and was selected by Team Cruz. Vick faced Daron Cruickshank in the preliminary round, and the situation did not go according to plan at the start. However, “The Texecutioner” countered a Cruickshank takedown attempt with a crushing knee strike that knocked the taekwondo black belt cold. In the quarterfinals, Vick defended takedowns and employed his burgeoning standup skills in posting a unanimous decision over Joe Proctor. His run ended in the semifinals, where he succumbed to second-round punches from eventual Season 15 winner Michael Chiesa.
5. He stays busy on social media.
Vick tweets on a near daily basis, the composition of his posts covering everything from inspirational quotes to commentary on other UFC fights and professional boxing matches. He also provides updates on his recreational activities and training. Vick recently included details about his preparation for the forthcoming showdown with Gaethje and also creates MMA training videos that he posts on YouTube. He does not shy away from trying to get under his rivals’ skin. Vick in February tweeted a picture that had the faces of current UFC lightweights superimposed on the bodies of feral hogs. The accompanying caption asked, “Which pig should I go after?”