One of the biggest feel-good stories that this year has brought upon us so far is the Hollywood-like UFC debut of Junior Albini. “Baby” first stepped into the Octagon on the undercard of UFC on FOX 25 last month and knocked out Tim Johnson in round one. An impressive triumph in itself, even without knowing that “Baby” has a two-year-old daughter back home in Brazil and hasn’t been paid a dime for his fights before the UFC.
“It was all a big sacrifice”, Albini told AG. Fight about the last few years when he worked as a waiter on the weekends, earning just enough money to scrape by. “I would say ‘one more year.’ I borrowed [money] and believed in the dream.”
“My wife always supported me and believed that I would get [to the UFC]. It went like this for four years, I was cutting back everything in order to be able to live under the minimum conditions that allowed me to eat well.”
“When my wife became pregnant, the situation became more difficult. But then when [my daughter] started walking and she was ten months old, that was when it became even more difficult. It was rough for [my wife] because she feared to be harming her childhood and never be able to get her things she could have had. This last year was more difficult when [my daughter] started talking […] and I thought about quitting almost every day.”
Then, he did make it to the UFC on the strength of nine straight victories. His first-round knockout of ranked heavyweight Tim Johnson not only kicked off his UFC career with a bang but also pocketed him 50,000 Dollars for the “Performance of the Night”. Not bad for someone who’s only pay for his victories used to be the extension of his hopes to some day make it to the big leagues, one fight at a time.
“With this financial part [fixed for now], I can focus on the training”, Albini said. “I will try to keep the same pattern as before, but with more quality of life and tranquility, both for my daughter and my wife.”
Even during the week before he banked the bonus, though, Albini had to make things work with the money the UFC gave him for fight week. Instead of only food, the 26-year-old decided to also spend the money on toys for his daughter for the first time.
“Actually, I bought dolls with the food money that the UFC gives us to spend on groceries during the week”, Albini said. “I went out to buy things and I ended up seeing the dolls, because here in Brazil it’s very expensive, and I bought it for my daughter with that money. I want to give the best for them, but I also don’t want to exaggerate it. I want to try to keep a good standard but save as much as I can. I’m new and I believe I can get some things done [in the UFC]. I don’t want to touch a big part of the money, I want to save it.”
That careful approach is based on Albini’s experiences of having to get through the week with next to nothing. The same mentality comes into play when it comes to his fighting future. Having just knocked out a ranked opponent, Albini could see himself opposite the cage from world-class fighters very soon. Still, “Baby” wants to take his time and sharpen all his assets before taking on the biggest of the big boys.
“It’s a small cut to hit 265 pounds, but I want to change that and improve my shape, gain lean mass and lose more fat, but I don’t want to lose weight, no. It makes a difference in speed and size. Even if I’m heavy I don’t lose speed. Also, I don’t want to take steps that are too big, I want to do some fights before I get the guys at the top.”