Yorgan De Castro has had a cinematic-like 2019 thus far, which was made even more special with a highlight reel, “Performance of the Night” winning knockout at UFC 243. Despite the incredible year he has had, De Castro is ready for more, even if he is needed next weekend.
De Castro knocked out Justin Tafa in just over two minutes to kick off Saturday night’s main card in Melbourne, Australia to cap off what has, so far, been a whirlwind of a year. The 31-year-old began the year with a unanimous decision win over Carlton Little at CES 54 in January, just his fourth professional fight. Five months later, De Castro would take on Alton Meeks on the first Dana White’s Contender Series fight of the season. Despite being the biggest underdog on the card, and one of the biggest of the entire season, De Castro would drop Meeks with a brutal leg kick and finish with a barrage of hammerfists to earn the win and a UFC contract.
To say this year has been an unexpected whirlwind would be an understatement.
“I would say you were crazy (if you told me this would happen in January),” De Castro told BJPENN.com. “I would’ve never imagined all of this. This has been a dream. I still don’t get it.”
It was an away game of sorts for De Castro as the Massachusetts native flew nearly 20 hours to Australia to face Tafa in his home country. Add it being his first UFC fight week, along with a crowd of over 50,000 fans that were against him, De Castro could’ve understandably gotten rattled. As he began to make his first walk to the Octagon, all of that energy became positive.
“I was very, very nervous in the beginning,” De Castro said. “Then I started walking in the tunnel and started talking to myself. I said, ‘This is it. How many people do you know that get to live their dream?’, so I was living my own dream. I just went out and enjoyed it. I took my time, I walked slow and I absorbed everything. I enjoyed that moment, I enjoyed it all — even in the cage. He punched me a couple of times and I was enjoying that, also. I felt like I belonged.”
Two minutes after the fight began it would end. De Castro would land a ferocious counter right hand and finished the fight with a walk-off knockout. De Castro and his team at Regiment Training Center in Fall River, Mass. had been prepared for that moment since fight camp began.
“We drilled and drilled and drilled (that counter),” Yorgan De Castro explained. “He’s very powerful and he was coming strong. If I had missed that right hand it could’ve been me on the ground. We were definitely counting on that, plus the crowd was crazy behind him and we knew that would play a factor. He needed to finish the fight, I was there for 15 minutes. I flew all the way to Australia and I wanted to get the job done. I didn’t care (how I won), he was rushing to finish the fight.”
Of course, as a fighter, you want to get the victory and create moments people will remember. On the flip side, you never want to seriously hurt your opponent. While De Castro is happy Tafa was able to recover from the devastating right hand, but the feeling of landing a punch like that and having Bruce Buffer announce him as the winner was one he will never forget.
“That’s great, man,” De Castro said. “I don’t know if I can say this but it was probably better than sex. I was great! It was a great feeling, I felt like Superman. I knew it as soon as I touched his jaw. I knew it was over, that’s why I walked off. I ended up missing the left hook — it was muscle memory throwing right hand, left hook — and I still threw the left hook in the air. It was great!
“I had dreamed of that moment, always dreamed of Bruce Buffer introducing me. When he was introducing me, I walked away, I wasn’t paying attention because I was so focused. Just talking about it right now, my heart rate is going crazy because I still feel like I’m living that moment.”
In addition to being one of the rising contenders in the UFC heavyweight division, De Castro is also a security guard at Durfee High School in his hometown of Fall River, Mass — a job he doesn’t plan on leaving anytime soon. De Castro flew home and returned to work this week, receiving a welcome that can be compared to the New England Patriots or Boston Red Sox returning home after winning world championships.
“They received me like a hero,” De Castro said. “There were pictures, everywhere I went people knew who I was, they’re talking about me, it has been great. I think I’ve brought a lot of positivity to the city and I like that.
“I felt like the Patriots coming home after winning the Super Bowl. That’s exactly how I felt.”
With his upbeat and positive personality, his lineage from the islands, residing in the Boston area as a professional athlete, De Castro has heard comparisons to Boston sports legend David Ortiz. If people want to make that comparison, that is something De Castro is more than ready to live up to.
“Yes! Big Papi, yes,” Yorgan De Castro said happily. “I love that comparison. I’m ok with that. I like how people look at me and say that. If I can do it, you can do it too. If I can inspire others to do something, that would be good.”
While 2019 has been hectic, crazy and full of incredible opportunity, De Castro has no plans of slowing down and wants to return to the Octagon again before the year is out. When asked if he would be willing to step in, if needed, at next Friday’s UFC Boston card — less than two weeks after making his Octagon debut — De Castro said he would jump all over the chance to fight in his home state.
“We’re keeping going,” De Castro said. “We have to seize the moment so let’s go! I would do that (in Boston). That’s insane, but I want to get right back at it. I’m not injured and I’m ready to fight. I’m (almost) 32, how long am I gonna fight? I want to do it now. I want to make the most money I can, I want to be able to send my daughter to college when the time comes, I want to be able to take care of my family. Sitting at home, it’s not going to happen. I’m gonna have to grind.”