Vicente Luque knows how the game is played, in and out of the cage, but he refuses to allow it to dictate how he conducts himself. The 26-year-old “Silent Assassin,” who faces fellow up-and-coming welterweight Chad Laprise at UFC Fight Night 129 on Saturday in Santiago, Chile, relates how he came by his nickname.
“It was while I was on [‘The Ultimate Fighter’ Season 21]. There were a lot of guys on the show who were always talking, and I didn’t talk very much,” Luque told Sherdog.com. “Because I was quiet, people were surprised when they saw that I can really fight. [Blackzilians coach] Glenn Robinson called me ‘The Silent Assassin.’ That’s how I got the name.”
The moniker suits the affable, unassuming fighter. Even his 12-6 record is deceptive, reflecting his on-the-job learning curve rather than his true skill level. Luque started fighting as a professional at age 17, and three of his six career losses came before his 21st birthday. Now 26 and a fully realized mixed martial artist, Luque is 5-2 in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, with all five wins coming by stoppage.
Luque’s last fight, a second-round throttling of Niko Price at UFC Fight Night 119, saw him bounce back from his second UFC defeat -- a unanimous decision loss to Leon Edwards at UFC Fight Night 107. Luque credits his improved performance in the Price fight with having more time off between fights, as the Edwards loss was his fourth appearance in nine months. When Luque steps into the cage to fight Laprise, it will have been over seven months since he defeated Price. Luque welcomes the chance to allow his body to recuperate, but he had additional reasons for extending this particular layoff.
“The perfect situation for me would be to fight every four months or so, but I chose to wait the extra couple of months so that I could fight in Chile,” Luque said. “I have family there, so it was an important opportunity for me.”
Laprise parallels Luque’s UFC career track in many ways. Both entered the promotion after distinguishing themselves on “The Ultimate Fighter” reality series: Laprise won “The Ultimate Fighter Nations” the year before Luque made the semifinals of his season. Laprise sports a 6-2 UFC record to Luque’s 5-2. In this even-looking matchup of rising contenders, Luque respects Laprise’s weapons but believes his own well-roundedness will carry the day.
“He’s dangerous for sure, but he fights mostly as a striker,” Luque said. “I can strike too, I’ve knocked a lot of people out, but I will always have that base in grappling. I trained in luta livre and in jiu-jitsu from when I was young, so I also have the threat that I can submit you.”
Luque seems keenly aware of the stakes of this fight. Edwards, the last man to defeat him, occupies a spot in the bottom third of the UFC’s official welterweight Top 15, as well as Sherdog.com’s divisional rankings. A convincing win over Laprise might well propel Luque into the same stratum -- or vice versa -- while a loss in the crowded, hyper-competitive 170-pound division can set a fighter back years. Luque is also well aware that many of his peers elevate their profiles by virtue of trash talk and loud, outsized personalities. He understands, for better or worse, that is the nature of the sport today but steadfastly maintains that he will remain “The Silent Assassin.”
“No, I’ll never [start trash talking to get attention],” Luque said. “I could never change who I am like that. I’m always ready to fight. I’ve taken two fights on short notice in the UFC. My fights are always exciting, and I finish people. That’s how I want to get attention. People think I’m a nice guy -- and I am a nice guy -- but in the cage, I’m there to take care of business and take the other guy out.”