Underdog status fueled Yorgan De Castro's fire at DWCS 17: 'I came to prove everyone wrong'

The season premiere of Dana White’s Contender Series kicked off Tuesday, with the UFC president awarding two fighters with promotional contracts.

One of the selected additions to the UFC roster, heavyweight Yorgan De Castro (5-0), was the biggest underdog on the episode, sitting at +588 on average across major online sportsbooks. The Cape Verde-born athlete became the first fighter from his native country to make it to the UFC.

The 31-year-old big man finished his undefeated foe, Alton Meeks (3-1), by stuffing takedown attempts and landing thudding leg kicks. De Castro finished the fight via leg kick and punches late in the first round, earning a UFC deal.

Following the conclusion of the event, De Castro spoke to the media. The Fall River, Mass. fighter said the general consensus that he was going to get taken out swiftly elevated his motivation and training levels leading into the fight.

“I can’t put it together,” De Castro told the media, including MMA Junkie following the event. “I’m still soaking it in – amazing. There was a lot of pressure. Yesterday, I read an article that said I’d get I’m going to get finished in under one minute. That was firing me up. I was really upset. I trained yesterday (and) I trained today (in the) morning because that got on my nerves. I came to prove everyone wrong.”

From the start, it was no secret what De Castro’s opponent Meeks had in mind for a gameplan. The former state wrestling champion attempted to drag De Castro to the ground numerous times, but to no avail.

“I knew that was what he was going to do,” De Castro said. “His gameplan was limited. It was to take me down and finish. That was his only way to win. I was ready for that. I’ve been doing that for 12 weeks – takedown defense, takedown defense all day. He’s a big dude. He’s 270 (pounds). He cuts weight to make weight. He will get tired.

“I’m not the biggest dude, but I knew eventually if the fight keeps standing I would finish him.”

As the fight progressed, Meeks visibly began to wear down, and his attacks became more desperate. Reflecting on the bout, De Castro recalled telling himself he needed to push the action just prior to the finish.

“He was tired after rushing in the takedown from one side to the other side,” De Castro said. “He couldn’t keep me down, so I knew when it was the time. I said, ‘He’s tired now. Either I’ve got to go forward. Or if we go to (the) second round, he will probably come straight to take me down.'”

Participating in the evening’s curtain-jerker, a nerve-racked De Castro had plenty of time to sit in the back and nervously ponder the likelihood he secured a contract.

“I was thinking the whole time, ‘I hope they sign me,” De Castro said. “‘I hope they sign me. I don’t want to come back for this.’ This feeling is – oh man.”

When De Castro’s name rolled off of the UFC president’s tongue, the NEF cruiserweight champion was elated.

“I couldn’t believe it,” De Castro said. “I still gotta go back home and watch everything and try to figure it out.”

For more on Dana White’s Contender Series 17, check out the MMA Events section of the site.

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