If you thought your work commute was bad... this fighter travels approximately three hours (one way) just to get to his gym.
Ray Elizalde lives in Southern San Diego county and trains at least three days a week at American Gym in Northern Orange County with UFC powerhouse Tony Ferguson and his decorated coach Anthony Gonzalez.
"His work ethic is up there with top level guys," Gonzalez told Champions.co. "That's where he wants to be so he trains like that. I know he drives a long way to be here so I make sure the time he has here is quality."
It's no wonder he makes the trek. Ferguson and his team are on an eight fight win streak, six of those finishes.
"It's world class training," Elizalde said. "I try to come up at least three times a week and spend about four hours here working."
He says that he first heard about Gonzalez and Ferguson when he was referred to the RVCA gym across the street, they hit it off and he began training more with the duo. In fact, they will both be in his corner for his next fight.
Elizalde made his RFA debut in June when he accepted a short notice fight and TKO'd his opponent (who was ranked first in the state) in the third round. His performance was so impressive they offered him another fight, this time as the co-main event and with a full fight camp.
"I've been tested by high level athletes in the gym my whole career," he said. "That's why I have the confidence that I do."
Elizalde has been wrestling since he was eight years old and was state champion at 10 years old, but got burnt out of it in high school. He says he eventually gravitated towards MMA.
Because of the distance, Elizalde also attends gyms in his area when he can't make the drive and to add more tools to his game including practicing "ninja shit" at Shaolin Kung Fu Five Animals.
"I also train in Bruce Lee's main style of fighting," he explained. "It's all the stuff you see Conor McGregor doing right now. A lot of the fighters trying to mimic it now are doing it handicapped and can only do it one way. I can do both."
He also puts in work at Bang Muay Thai and 10th Planet Jiu-jitsu and has also trained periodically in Colorado at MusclePharm with Duane Ludwig and TJ Dillashaw. So it's safe to safe he's a pretty well rounded fighter.
"I don't see him getting submitted at this level," Gonzalez said. "If you haven't seen his stand up, that's probably his bread and butter. He's a well rounded fighter."
For his next bout he faces Alex Perez, who fights out of team Oyama with a 13-4 record.
"It's funny because my last opponent probably thought he'd run through me," he said. "And I'm sure that's what Alex thinks he will do too."
Elizalde went on to say that even though he thinks Perez is a better fighter than his previous opponent, he is still confident he will take home the W.
"Alex is more well rounded than my last opponent, and in my opinion that makes him a more dangerous opponent," he said. "But I've been doing this so long I am still way above his level. I took that last fight on two weeks notice, I think they fail to realize how ready I will be this time."
He has been training in MMA for more than 10 years, and made his pro debut in 2013. He has gone undefeated ever since, holding a 10-0 professional record.
"All I can say is it's not going to go three rounds," he said. "I'm going to finish the fight."
Elizalde faces Perez in the co-main bout at RFA 42 August 19 in Visalia, CA. The card will be aired on AXSTV.
(Images by Amy Kaplan)