TRAINING: I actually had an extra long camp for this fight because I had a Jiu-Jitsu SuperFight, which was like a mini pre-camp, so I got to focus on a lot of No Gi grappling positions that will feed into my defense for Joe’s style perfectly. Mondays I'm at boxing at 10am-11am, then come home, eat a small meal and hit a hard paced 4-5mile run a little after lunch and I usually finish around 1pm. After picking up my kids and running errands, my next session isn't until 6pm, when I get hard grappling rounds in with IBJJF World Champ Santos Rivera and 4 stripe brown belt and 2x World Silver medalist Sean Huff. Recently I've added a more dynamic strength & conditioning program, followed by hot yoga, to stretch muscles, increase my flexibility, balance, and core strength to continue to have power in awkward positioning.
Thoughts on opponent, Joe Soto? Joe is a very resilient experienced fighter with fast takedowns and good Jiu-Jitsu. His showing against TJ (Dillashaw) was good and all, but they were training partners and that fight to me had the feel of a glorified sparring match. Joe’s won world titles and belts in other organizations and had a shot at the UFC gold and fell short. I feel like he's hit his rooftop with what he can accomplish in this sport and now it's my time.
When and why did you start training for fighting? I started training after college without many opportunities other than the Olympics. I saw how good former teammates Efrain Escudero, Jaime Varner, and Danny Martinez were doing in MMA and I decided to make the transition to MMA in late 2008.
What ranks and titles have you held? Rage in the Cage BW champion, BJJ world silver medalist, Inaugural MFC bantamweight champion, 4x Greco-Roman AZ state Champion, 3x AZ high school state medalist, 2003 AZ state runner up, AAU All-American 2006.
Do you have any heroes? Mom
What does it mean for you to fight in the UFC? It's the culmination of every drop of blood, sweat, and tears. The sacrifices and struggles that my family and I have made are finally paying off.
Did you go to college and if so what degree did you earn? I did go to college at the Junior College (Pima Community College) and NCAA Div II (Grand Canyon University) levels, where I studied in Visual Communications with emphasis in graphic design and marketing advertising. I did not earn a degree, but I learned I was way better at beating people up than being a student.
What was your job before you started fighting? I've worked for my Uncle’s roofing company for years; I also worked at a sporting goods store, and tended bar, all at the same time for about three years.
Specific accomplishments in pro competition? I was in Sports Illustrated December 22, 2013 for Most Victorious Picture of the Year. Also have won multiple Fight of the Night awards.
Ranks in any martial arts styles: Purple belt in BJJ under Sean Huff of Northside BJJ in Tucson, Arizona, and I also say I definitely have my black belt in Wrestling.
Favorite grappling technique: D'arce choke or Anaconda Choke
• Pro since 2009
• Six wins by submission, three by KO
• Owns 2013 win over UFC vet Ryan Benoit
• Five first round finishes
• Origin of nickname: The origin of my nickname “El Toro” came from my fiancé Mercedes, who was watching me spar one day and noticed that I was like a bull, just constantly coming forward with a relentless attack. She said I'm stubborn and Bullheaded and it just stuck as Tony Toro basically. Anthony "El Toro" Birchak, that's who you’re going to see December 13th -someone who is so determined and won't give up.”