Yorgan De Castro is in disagreement with the recent criticism surrounding his upcoming fight.
The unbeaten UFC heavyweight takes on former NFL standout Greg Hardy in the opening bout of the UFC 249 pay-per-view event on May 9 in Jacksonville, Fla. De Castro (6-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) and Hardy place above former UFC champions such as Anthony Pettis, Fabricio Werdum, Carla Esparza and many other top contenders in the organization.
Some fans and pundits have been critical of De Castro’s bout placement on the card, given that he and his opponent are fairly new to the promotion. Although De Castro understands where the criticism is coming from, he finds it unfair.
“I understand, and I see a lot (of people) complaining and saying, ‘We should be on the main card,’” De Castro told MMA Junkie. “But none of the fighters on that card are unhappy with their position. I’m happy to just be on the card, period. To fight on this big card, I’m really happy. If I’d open the prelims, I’d still be happy. UFC knows what they’re doing and I’m just – none of us have a say on what position we’re going to be on the card … unless you’re Conor McGregor. Then you get a say.”
Given that the global coronavirus pandemic has canceled all major sporting events, De Castro thinks fans should just be happy that the UFC will soon be providing live sports with UFC 249.
“It’s unfair and ungrateful – we don’t have sports for a month, so just be happy for the card,” De Castro said. “Trust me: We’re all going to put on a show. I believe all of us are going to put on a show, make some money, and we’re all going to go there and give it our all. And like I said, it doesn’t matter whether you’re on the prelims or the main card. I mean, the prelims have three former champs. So we’re all happy, man.”
UFC 249 marks the first event since the UFC was forced to cancel all of its events for late March and all of April due to COVID-19 restrictions and bans on large gatherings.
The Florida State Boxing Commission will be overseeing UFC 249, as well as the two subsequent events on May 13 and 16. All three events will go down at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena.
Hardy is a controversial figure in the sports world given his past with alleged domestic violence issues and charges. But Hardy never was convicted. De Castro is confident he can gain a good following if victorious against Hardy.
“I asked for this fight. Fans are going to love me, for sure.” De Castro said. “If you see the heavyweight division, Greg Hardy is one of the biggest names and he’s not ranked yet. He’s fought five times for the UFC and he’s got a lot of hate behind him. A lot of people hate him. A lot of people like him. But either way, people are going to tune in and watch. I think it’s a good matchup, and he’s one of those guys that will get better over time. I think right now, I can beat him, so this is the right time to be fighting him.”
De Castro thinks a win over Hardy could put him in the UFC rankings, or at the very least open up opportunities to fight ranked opposition. The 32-year-old is coming in to stop the former football star and sees weaknesses he can exploit come fight night.
“He’s very aggressive and likes to come forward angry and throw bombs – not so much technique,” De Castro said. “But I’ve seen him evolve a lot in the UFC. Now he’s mixing up punches and kicks. He’s moving more and not in a rush anymore, so that shows me he’s gaining confidence and he’s getting better. Still, I mean, he just has five fights in the UFC. I think he finished two fights, got (disqualified) in one and lost one. So he’s still developing, but he still has a lot of holes.”
De Castro admitted to having experienced difficulties preparing for UFC 249, given the current climate of social distancing in order to avoid coronavirus infection. He said his training consisted mostly of conditioning and one-on-one work with his coach paired with occasional sparring. He said he was fortunate to find a couple sparring partners willing to train with him.
De Castro will fly from Massachusetts to Florida and is confident the UFC will run the right protocols to keep him safe from COVID-19 exposure.
“It’s a risk we have to take, but they told me they were going to test me and my coach before we fly, and when we get there, we’re going to get tested again.” De Castro explained. “So they have a lot of safety that we have to go through.”