After a long wait, Maki Pitolo is raring to go.
His first fight since October is set for Saturday in a bout against Charles Byrd at UFC 250 in Las Vegas. He was originally scheduled to fight Takashi Sato at UFC Fight Night 168 in February, but fell ill during his weight cut.
Training for Saturday’s fight was not without its challenges as Pitolo held his camp in quarantine during the coronavirus pandemic. Nonetheless, he feels adequately prepared to get back into the win column.
“Just holding my head high and trusting the process is the biggest thing,” the Nanakuli native told KHON2 sports director Rob DeMello. “We were quarantined up and once I got the fight was when I kind of had to do some calls, round the boys up and make a private quarantine camp. Before I even got the fight, I was staying ready.
“I would do morning sessions and then I would do evening sessions, and I felt like it all kind of just fell in place. It worked out perfectly, actually.”
Pitolo, who as a career record of 12-5, lost to Callan Porter via unanimous decision on Oct. 5, 2019, the last time he took the octagon. Before his fight against Sato, he was supposed to cut down to 170 pounds before getting sick. He’s set to take Byrd on at 185 pounds, a weight where he feels much less compromised.
“I’m using it as fuel to my fire, but I’m always looking to go in there and do my thing and I’m never looking into the past,” Pitolo said. “I feel great. I feel awesome. By all means I live for this sport but cutting to 170 was taking a toll on me and it was going into my health issues so I’m happy I’m here — 185 is where I got my contract, 185 is where I feel I belong and I feel the best.”
Pitolo and Byrd’s bout will kick off the preliminary bouts, which will start at 2 p.m. on ESPN. It promises to be a barn burner, as the two fighters have combined to go past the second round just eight times in a combined 33 fights.
“This is what I got into this sport for, to just compete,” Pitolo said. “Purely compete and this is what I love. This is prime time right here. There is no crowd. I’m gonna give everybody their money’s worth.
“I carry Hawaii on my heart, I carry it on my shoulders every time I walk in that cage. It’s team Hawaii all day without a doubt and I’m going in there for all of us 110 percent.”