“It shows people that it’s possible,” said current UFC welterweight Tristan Connelly, another member of the Checkmat Vancouver team who fought under the Battlefield banner in the past and has cornered countless athletes at BFL events over the years. “I didn’t see anyone come up and make it. All the people that I thought were going to make it when I started, they all stopped fighting, and I was the last person that I thought would make it.
“Having them see us come up and see that it paid off — the level of motivation for all my guys the last year and a half is huge,” continued the 35-year-old veteran, who earned a unanimous decision victory over Michel Pereira in his short-notice, hometown debut the last time the UFC touched down in Vancouver. “They’ve all been way more committed, more pumped because they can see that if they stick to this path, it’s possible and not far-fetched.”
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Not only has Estremadura been able to watch as fighters he’s competed alongside early in his career like Matt Dwyer and Jeremy Kennedy climbed through the ranks, claimed BFL titles, and went on to compete at the highest level in the sport, but he’s also been fortunate enough to train with the likes of Connelly and Smith, and gauge through them how he stacks up in comparison to some of the UFC athletes his teammates have spent time on the mats with while training at the Performance Institute in Las Vegas.
“When you’re out there, you’re by yourself, but it really is a team sport when you look behind the scenes and see what’s going on,” said Estremadura, who carries a 6-0 record into his fourth title defense on Friday. “Tristan and Cole are older than me, they’ve had a little more experience, and I think it was right for them to move forward and get there first, and for me, it just made me believe in the process and what the team is doing, moving forward together.
“(Training with them) has given me huge confidence and understanding in terms of where I fit on the world scale, especially with Tristan and Cole going up to compete in the UFC,” he added. “(They’re) training at the UFC PI, going with certain fighters, and coming back and telling me that these guys don’t have that much on me, and that gives me a lot of confidence.”