03 Aug - 
Despite setback, Vicente Luque thinks he's closer than ever to title ahead of UFC on ESPN 40

LAS VEGAS – Vicente Luque has had bumps in the road, even as recently as April when he lost to Belal Muhammad by unanimous decision.

Entering Saturday’s UFC on ESPN 40 co-main event with Geoff Neal, however, Luque (21-8-1 MMA, 14-4 UFC) thinks he’s closer than ever to UFC welterweight gold. With the focus on the short-term, Luque told reporters at Wednesday’s media day he’d be lying if he said the long-term wasn’t on his mind, too.

“It’s hard for me not to think about it, but that’s not the focus,” Luque told MMA Junkie. “The focus right now is beating Geoff. He’s the man. He’s the guy I’ve got to go past to move back into that title conversation, which I was (in) and I can get back to. I see I’m closer to the title fight than I’ve ever been, even with a setback. It didn’t set me that back. A win over Geoff can put me back into the mix. That’s the focus right now, get back into that mix, get a big win. It’s got to be a big one against Geoff. Then, we can think about what’s next.”

Luque, No. 8 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMA Junkie welterweight rankings, is positioned for another contender against No. 15-ranked Neal (14-4 MMA, 6-2 UFC) on the card at the UFC Apex, which airs on ESPN and streams on ESPN+. Many fans have it circled on their bout sheets, and Luque plans to live up to the hype.

“Geoff is a guy I watched even before I was lined up to fight him. I like his style,” Luque said. “I enjoy watching his fights. I think we match perfectly. It’s going to be possibly and most likely the Fight of the Night. We’re going to out there and do what we do which is try to knock each other out. He’s tough (and) I’m tough, so that’s not going to be a quick one. But I do believe I can finish him and I think that he believes he can finish me, so it’s going to be nice to watch that challenge.”

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC on ESPN 40.