Ernesto “Iron” Montilla Jr. has the biggest opportunity of his professional mixed martial arts career ahead of him, and he plans to take full advantage of it.
The 31-year-old native of Surigao Del Norte is set to make his promotional debut by taking on Japanese bruiser Tatsumitsu “The Sweeper” Wada at ONE Friday Fights 9, which takes place at the iconic Lumpinee Boxing Stadium in Bangkok, Thailand on March 17.
Montilla is entering this tilt as the dark horse due to the sizeable gap between him and his opponent in terms of experience.
Wada has 38 bouts under his belt and has fought the who’s who in ONE Championship’s flyweight division such as Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson, Danny “The King” Kingad, Kairat “The Kazakh” Akhmetov and Reece “Lighting” McLaren.
On the other hand, Montilla holds a 10-4 record and has plied his trade for the majority of his decade-long stint at the local level.
The former Philippine Flyweight Champion does not deny that he faces an incredible challenge, but he has confidence that he can overcome it.
“I don't care about being the underdog because I came to win,” he said.
For his part, “Iron” doesn’t think the Japanese is taking him lightly. But if any of Wada’s supporters expect an easy night, he believes they will come away disappointed.
“He and his fans are in for a surprise this Friday,” Montilla quipped.
Montilla, a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu who has an extensive background in boxing and Muay Thai, sees a chink in Wada’s arsenal that he seeks to exploit.
“I see some holes in his striking and I think I can get him there,” he stated. “I prepared for his weakness, which is his striking. But I didn't sleep on my grappling too.”
It has been a long time coming for Montilla to get his first international exposure after becoming a crowd darling in the local circuit for producing highlight-reel victories—six wins by submission and two via knockout.
His shot at strutting his wares on the global stage of the sport may have come a bit later than he anticipated, but Montilla is ready to demonstrate that he deserves to be among the elite when he shares the ring with Wada on Friday.
“Regardless of the round, my aim is to win by knockout or submission,” he declared.