In mixed martial arts, fighters find their motivation in various places, but for scrappy lightweight Tim Means, the motive to fight is a thing of clarity.
The Arizona native has overcome a hard scrabble past filled with drug addiction and penitentiary time to break through as a rising young talent on the sport’s biggest stage, and it’s a realm he has every intention of making an impact upon. The 29-year-old Power MMA product’s first two trips into the Octagon produced gems, as he dispatched Bernardo Magalhaes and Justin Salas. The first round knockout of Salas at UFC on FX 3 in Florida was so particularly definitive that it put Means on the radar as a fighter to watch.
That being said, the fight game is a unique world where conflict can often times become the catalyst for an individual’s greatest success, and in light of his unique background, Means is custom built to handle adversity and the valleys which come directly after the peaks.
Looking to keep his momentum rolling, the rangy lightweight accepted a bout against promotional newcomer Abel Trujillo at UFC 151. In an unfortunate turn, the ill-fated card was scrapped and the matchup was rebooked for UFC on FOX 5 in Seattle. While Means was excited to keep the tilt against Trujillo intact, it would ultimately all be for naught as he suffered a freak injury during his weight cut that eliminated him from the bout entirely.
Withdrawing from the bout was a misstep on several levels, but his first official setback inside the Octagon was soon to come when he squared-off with Jorge Masvidal at UFC on FOX 7 in April. Despite the matchup pitting two game strikers against one another, the former Strikeforce title challenger deployed a versatile game plan that forced Means to work off his back and ultimately earned him the victory.
While Masivdal’s approach caught him off guard, Means found positives in the education of the fight.
“It provided incredible motivation for me,” Means said about the loss to Masvidal. “I learned not to underestimate anybody’s wrestling credentials. I thought Masvidal was going to stand and we were going to slug it out in a good old fashioned parking lot street fight. But he changed on a swivel and showed he was a real veteran. He kind of took me out of my game and caused me to make mistakes in my takedown defense. When his head was above my waist, I was pushing his head down instead of getting wrist control and getting a whizzer. I went back to the drawing board. My wrestling coach showed me what I was doing wrong and we really put in a lot of hours working on using the right takedown defense at the right time.
“I’m looking to show people I can stop the takedowns and ultimately prove I can get back to my feet. I thought I was doing a lot of damage off my back in the Masvidal fight, finding the better elbows and strikes from that position. But I really needed to get back to my feet and impose my will there. I got started a little late in the third round in going for the reversal. Obviously I’m not happy about the loss but I am happy with what it has opened up for me as far as broadening my skill set. It has opened up more tools for me in practice and showed me what I needed to work on. It will help me out in the long run.”
In a fitting turn, Means will have the opportunity to implement the adjustments in his game when he squares-off with the power wrestling game of Danny Castillo at UFC on FOX 8. “Last Call” was originally slated to face Bobby Green on the Seattle card, but once the “King” fell out due to injury, Means stepped up to take the opportunity.
In addition to the opportunity to bounce back into the win column, Means is also facing an opponent who has established a bit of momentum in his own right in Castillo. The Californian had experienced mixed results while competing in the WEC, but since his transition over to the Octagon, the Team Alpha Male fighter has found victory in five of his seven showings.
Fighting Castillo will not only provide him a chance to prove he’s a better fighter than his most recent showing displayed, it will also allow Means a shot at redemption from the last time he was supposed to fight in the “Emerald City.”
“My first thought was ‘Yes! Absolutely,” Means recounted about the Castillo fight coming his way. “I’m in great shape and I’ve really been training hard. I was really hoping to get on the card in Seattle because I really want to redeem myself after beating myself up the last time I was up there. It’s time to get in a fight and I’m excited about it.
“When people see my name on a card, I want them to know I’m coming to fight. In order to do that, I have to do the work in the gym, follow the right nutrition, and prepare myself correctly to come out there and get in those scraps. I like to put a good show on for the fans but at the same time, I’m here to feed my family. That is the main factor.
“I want to make my mark,” he added. “I don’t think a lot of people gave me credit in the Masvidal fight and people thought he was just going to walk through me. I’m here to stay. Castillo is a good guy, they have a good camp over there, but I have to make an example out of him.”
Where in the past Means has entered the cage hungry for the ruckus, his recent experience against Masvidal has him prepared for a different type of experience. When competing at the highest levels of the sport, fighters have a tendency to get cautious and rely on their strengths. Where Means may have frowned upon those exact antics in the past, he now absolutely understands the motivation for why it happens.
Even with that being the case, it isn’t a method of fighting he’s willing to subscribe to. Means understands why his opponents will be looking to take him to the canvas and he’s confident he has done the work to make sure the Masvidal fight doesn’t repeat itself with Castillo on July 27.
“Castillo won’t stand with me, at all,” Means said. “He’s going to come out and shoot for takedowns right away. That is what is going to happen there. Lay and pray is a method where he could win the fight but he won’t stand with me. He’s not going to exchange at all.
“I underestimated that aspect with Masvidal because I thought he was going to get after it because he’s a gritty guy, but that fight changed the way I think. Castillo won’t stand. He’s going to shoot takedowns and that’s just the way the fight is going to go down.
“I’m going to show up and fight,” he offered in conclusion. “I’m happy to have a job with the UFC and they gave me a new contract and I just want to show up and earn my money. I’m expecting fireworks with Castillo.”
Tim Means: Emerald City Redemption
"When people see my name on a card, I want them to know I’m coming to fight." - Tim Means