There are many things that we can control in life. Our friends, our interests, and even our future to some extent.

But there are also many things that we cannot control. One of them is where we’re born. We simply cannot determine our location or the atmosphere in which we grew up in.

UFC lightweight Yoislandy Izquierdo is no exception to this rule.

Izquierdo, born and raised in the outskirts of Cuba, found himself faced with a situation that he had no control over. It was a requirement for all Cuban men to join and serve in the country’s military academy. This wasn’t an option or a choice, but rather expected.

“Serving in my country’s military was mandatory,” Izquierdo shared with the The MMA Corner in an exclusive interview. “I did not make the decision to join the military and it was not by choice.”

Yoislandy Izquierdo (William Musacchia/Sherdog)

“After serving my time in the Cuban military, I chose to come to the United States and fight. Fighting in the U.S. has always been my ultimate dream. A lot of people don’t get the chance to live out their dreams. I have been fortunate enough to live my dream to the fullest.”

Izquierdo found immediate success as he was able to conquer the first six opponents of his professional career. It was this success that caught the eye of UFC matchmaker Joe Silva. Izquierdo would join forces with the world’s top promotion, but something would quickly change. In his UFC debut, Izquierdo was no longer fighting in the land that he often dreamed of.

Instead, Izquierdo was fighting in the heart of Sweden, where he met hometown hero Reza Madadi. Also making his Octagon debut, Madadi was able to dictate the pace of the fight and ultimately defeated Izquierdo in the second round of action at UFC on Fuel 2. It was Izquierdo’s first loss and needless to say, a devastating one at that.

“As you can imagine, it was a hard hit to me personally. I had never felt the feelings of defeat, but I had to accept that this was part of the game. I had to find a way of turning it into a positive. I needed to focus on my weaknesses and I have been doing that,” said Izquierdo. “In the end, it has been constructive to my training.”

Izquierdo will now look to bounce back and capture the first win of his UFC career when he meets Rafaello Oliveira at the highly anticipated UFC 148. When the Cuban native takes the center stage, he promises to deliver this time around.

“I feel the match-up with Rafaello is perfect for me. It’s nothing personal, but I’m going to do my job. I also like the fact that I am being matched with a UFC veteran.  Like with every one of my opponents, I do not focus on their strengths and weaknesses. I face each and every one of them like if I am fighting the best in the world,” said Izquierdo. “That way, I perform my absolute best.”

“I will finish the fight, and you are going to have to watch to see when and how.”

And while winning is certainly important to Izquierdo, it’s just another small piece of the puzzle. It’s the bigger picture in life that consumes Izquierdo’s mind on a daily basis. While representing his country and his family is of the essence, representing Jesus Christ holds a great importance in the life of Yoislandy Izquierdo.

“I have a strong faith in Jesus and I owe all of the wonderful things that have happened to me, to Him. With my family, we lead a spiritual life and this is how we feel peace and happiness. I respect those that feel that fighting goes against religion, but to me, I see this as a sport I practice. Almost every sport involves blood and injuries.  Practicing this sport takes a lot of discipline and dedication,” said Izquierdo. “I have also heard many times that because of this sport, many people have gotten away from bad violent habits and lifestyles.”

“Religion is not only carried within a church or by reading a Bible, but rather in the acts we do on a daily basis.”

Photo: Yoislandy Izquierdo (L) (William Musacchia/Sherdog)

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