Castillo to fight for UFC welterweight title in Las Vegas |

Castillo to fight for UFC welterweight title in Las Vegas

Put simply, Gil Castillo has reached the ultimate point in his fighting career.

The 37-year-old part-time resident of South Lake Tahoe will fight for the Ultimate Fighting Championship welterweight crown on Friday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

With so much riding on his title fight with champion Matt Hughes of Hillsboro, Ill., it would be understandable if Castillo was irritable and edgy. But the opposite is true as Castillo goes into the biggest fight of his career with the calm of someone who knows his time has come.

“I’m enjoying the experience of where I’m at, how far I took the sport,” Castillo said. “I’m very content with my skills and I want to go in and show people what I can do.”

Because Castillo is close to realizing the last of his fighting goals and middle age is creeping closer, this could the financial manager’s final bout.

“It doesn’t really get any bigger than what I’m doing next … UFC is the biggest, the biggest arena, a title fight and I’m fighting the No. 1 pound-for-pound guy in the world,” Castillo said. “So this might be my going away fight. I might be very content after this fight. I have a lot of other things to do in my life.”

Castillo’s only defeat in 18 ultimate fights is a five-round decision to Dave Menne on Sept. 28, 2001, when the two fought for the vacant middleweight championship in Las Vegas.

However, Castillo bounced back when he returned to his natural fighting weight — 170 pounds — on Jan. 11, 2002 and won an unanimous decision against Chris Brennan.

Hughes (27-3) hasn’t been taken the distance since winning the title from Carlos Newton 1 minutes, 27 seconds into the second round Nov. 2, 2001. Prior to stopping Newton 4:37 into the fourth round of their rematch in July, Hughes knocked out Japanese legend Hayato Sakurai 3:01 into the fourth round last March.

“He’s a very determined champion,” said Jack Taylor, public relations director for the UFC. “He’s very dedicated to what he’s doing and he really prepares for fights.”

While Castillo respects Hughes’ talents, he’s not intimidated by the former three-time national wrestling champion.

“I can’t be the best unless I beat the best,” Castillo said. “I think I have more skills than he has. He has a lot more strength and that’s why it might look like I’m not able to do much against him sometimes.”

As a result, Castillo plans to avoid being trapped on the ground, where Hughes’ previous challengers have met their demise.

“But I can’t fight his strength. I have to go with other things — speed and technique,” Castillo said.

If Castillo captures the UFC title, he’ll command as much as three times as much money as he’s now earning. However, that may not be enough to keep him in the sport.

“I’m in much better shape than I’ll ever be again, but it’s too much damn hard work,” he said. “I don’t know if I’ll be looking this good any more.”

The fight will be televised live on pay-per-view at 7 p.m. Friday. For fans making the trip to Las Vegas, ticket prices range from $30 to $300.

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