Across the eleven events hosted by Mexican MMA promotion Ultimate Warrior Challenge Mexico (UWC) in 2022, participating athletes represented a total of 17 different nations.
As one would expect, the overwhelming majority of those competing hailed from nations located within the America’s, ranging from Canada to Chile.
However, amongst the very few competitors to represent a nation outside the America’s, none share a journey quite like The Netherlands’ Victor “Striking Viking” Kuiks.
In 2022, the Dutchman built a 3-0 professional record exclusively with UWC in just 155 days.
Yet, Tijuana – the westernmost city of Mexico in which Victor resides – is a chance home found upon circumstance and opportunity.
This is the remarkable story of how a talented Dutch Middleweight found success in Mexico.
The road to Tijuana began during the Covid-19 pandemic. Victor, then residing in his homeland of The Netherlands, experienced restrictions that were amongst the strictest observed across Europe.
Through Victor’s own admission, those strict restrictions took a continuous, heavy toll.
“A lot of people I knew, including myself, were very, very depressed” Victor admits. “I honestly had to reinvent myself. I picked up certain habits. I found meditation and stuff”.
“I used to think that shit was too wavy, too sissy, and too hippy for me, because I’m a macho man!” Victor jokes. “I figured I may as well give it a try because being at home – locked up with myself – is torture. So first, I need to clean my mind, to find inner peace and all that stuff. Then, with more calm energy, I just kinda rolled with the punches that the whole pandemic threw at me”.
Indeed, the punches thrown by the pandemic were relentless.
Victor would experience a total of five fight cancellations due to Covid-19. Five times, Victor would undergo the preparation and training necessary to compete, only for the bout to be taken away by factors outside of his control.
For Victor, the fifth bout cancellation was the final straw.
“The fifth time, [Levels Fight League] told me ‘Listen, the fight is 100% gonna happen, because [there’s] no crowd’” Victor explains. “‘It’s just pay-per-view links’- you know, like the [UFC] apex-kinda style”.
“Then the Dutch government came with the curfew; my fifth fight got cancelled” Victor shares.
“I remember the phone call from the matchmaker at the time for LFL” Victor continues. “He called me, and I was actually with my brother. I had two weeks to go before my fight, and I was fit, I was ready. Then they cancelled me. I just hung up the phone and I started crying. I don’t remember the last time I cried – it’s been awhile. I just felt so powerless”.
In the midst of the Dutch lockdown, Victor was surprised to find on Instagram a Dutch friend attending parties and dining out at restaurants.
The friend revealed she was in Mexico, where restrictions were not enforced. As the owner of an Amsterdam-based gym, her plan was to stay in Mexico until restrictions were lifted in The Netherlands.
“I was like ‘Man fuck it, I’m gonna go to Mexico!’” Victor exclaimed. “I talked two of my good friends into joining me, and they joined me for like three weeks. Then, they went back to The Netherlands because they had normal jobs; I didn’t, because all the gyms were closed obviously, [so] I stayed in Mexico”.
Following six weeks of partying and enjoying life, a chance encounter with a friend influenced Victor’s next move.
“I ran into a friend of mine, some guy from Tijuana, the city I am at now” Victor explains. “He said ‘Well listen man, if you wanna train, you got to come to Tijuana man, that’s where Brandon Moreno trains.’ I was like okay, I guess Tijuana it is!”.
“I flew to Tijuana, which is a border town on the United States border with San Diego, and there it was; UWC, the home for many Latino MMA fighters that get bumped up to the UFC” Victor explains. “I’ve been training at Entram Gym, and fighting for UWC, ever since”.
Since moving to Tijuana, Victor has earned consecutive stoppage victories at UWC over Azael Hernández, Luis Guzman, and Hiram Furukawa.
Yet it’s not just Victor’s professional record that has blossomed.
In his own inspiring words, Victor recognises that the journey to Tijuana has offered growth within.
“I lost my anxiety going to the cage a bit, because I’m anxious to go to the gym sometimes; just an absolute ass-whooping awaits me” Victor explains. “I just feel that this whole trip – going to Mexico, having to learn a new language, to learn a new culture, find a place to live and all – it’s kinda given me some confidence that I can overcome things. I’m training so hard man. We always call Tijuana the trenches because everybody comes here to fight; Tijuana is the fight capital of Latin America. I feel like fighting is the easy part right now”.
“As bad of a time I had in the pandemic, I have to be grateful in hindsight, because it pushed me to go abroad, to leave everything behind, and go find my luck someplace else” Victor admits. “Now, here I am in Mexico, on a winning streak; I’ve got a new language, I’ve got a new life. I’m living this great new adventure. The day seems brighter than ever to me now”.
“Don’t get me wrong, I wake up thinking ‘Shit today is gonna be another day of torture’; it’s still a hard life” Victor continues. “I’m training harder than ever. It’s not fun. You don’t get paid a lot of money, you don’t get a lot of appreciation starting out as a professional fighter. But, I knew what I was signing up for – I knew this was gonna happen. I’m not complaining, I’m very happy that I made this choice. I’m grateful for the cards I was dealt. I believe more in a certain destiny now; maybe this was the plan all along”.
Victor returns March 31st 2023, against Jesús Wong at UWC 42, live on UFC Fight Pass.
The author extends his utmost gratitude to Victor Kuiks for making this article possible.
(Photo credit to Síntesis TV)