If you watched The Ultimate Fighter 28 you would know the two winners were Juan Espino and Macy Chiasson. Since winning it, Chiasson has fought twice and has her third fight booked. Juan Espino, meanwhile, has still yet to fight.
He beat Justin Frazier at The Ultimate Fighter 28 Finale in November of 2018 and has been out of action since. There has been no news on when he will fight, and no details on whether he was hurt or on what was keeping him out of the Octagon.
Speaking to BJPENN.com, Juan Espino revealed why he has not fought since winning the tournament.
“In my [semi-final] fight with Maurice [Greene] I broke my hand and I could not do anything until after I fought the final with Justin [Frazier],” Juan Espino told BJPENN.com. “The hand suffered a lot during that time, and because of my effort, I am paying the consequences. But, it was my moment, I had to fight in the final the way it was.”
It has almost been a full year and Juan Espino says he is still not fully cleared to train.
Given the fact that he is a TUF winner, and had momentum behind him, not being able to fight is a difficult pill to swallow. Yet, the hope is that the time off will be a blessing in disguise as he can focus on his technique and footwork during the time off.
“It’s very frustrating. I spent so long trying to get to the UFC. I made it through TUF, something that is not easy and then not being able to fight is quite hard,” he explained. “But, I don’t lose my focus and I keep training as much as I can. Just learning new techniques and improving my training.”
Juan Espino also made the move to American Top Team and has been training and recovering there. He says the move has made him a better fighter, and, he can’t wait to have a full camp with the team to show off his improvements in a fight. Unfortunately, the nagging hand injury is still present, but he is optimistic that he will fight later this year.
“I would love for it to be this year,” Juan Espino said. “I would love to fight on November 2, at Madison Square Garden. But, I need the doctors ‘OK’, and still need to talk to the matchmakers and the UFC.”
If he does get on that card, Juan Espino doesn’t care who he fights, as long as it isn’t a teammate.
“I don’t care, I just want to fight. If it is a top-15 opponent that is much better,” he concluded. “I just don’t want to face my teammates and training partners like Alexey Oleynik, Junior dos Santos, or Andrei Arlovski.”
For now, Espino continues to recover from his nagging hand injury. At 38-years-old — and turning 39 in October — he knows the time to make a run to the top is now.
Who do you think Juan Espino should fight when he makes his long-awaited debut after winning TUF?
This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 8/26/2019.