Quarantillo back in UFC cage Saturday night

Paul Battson/contributorIn this Feb. 25, 2017 file photo, Ransomville native Billy Quarantillo, right, fights California's "Prince" Ryan Fillingame for the King of the Cage junior welterweight title at the Seneca Niagara Events Center.

Billy Quarantillo was itching for a fight. He didn't really care who against or where; simply the sooner the better.

So when the promotion approached him with a catchweight — in-between typical classes — bout against Spike Carlyle, the Ransomville native was more than willing to be a little flexible to make it happen.

Quarantillo and Carlyle will both make their second UFC fights on Saturday as part of the UFC Fight Nights: Woodley vs. Burns card, which will take place without fans at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. And they'll do it at 150 pounds, rather than their typical 145-pound featherweight.

"It's very rare that UFC does catchweight, and the only reason they're doing it is they want to make as many fights happen as possible," Quarantillo said last weekend. "Because of this pandemic, I'm kind of giving him a break. For me, it was either fight him or wait longer. I want to be on ESPN again and climb the rankings, so I said let's do it."

Quarantillo, who is still in the process of moving into his new house in Florida, was scheduled to fight Gavin Tucker on an April 25 card that was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

It was supposed to be his second act in mixed martial art's top promotion, following a Dec. 7, 2019 submission victory over Jacob Kilburn in his debut.

"It was crazy," Quarantillo said. "The whole pandemic was getting pretty serious. On one end, you watch the news and you go online and everyone is like shut down, stay inside ... and then on the other side, our boss, Dana White, was saying we're going to make these fights happen. A week and a half out, the fight's still on. I had to keep getting ready right up until the last minute.

"I'm glad it worked out how it did and we didn't have to take any chances."

After the cancellation, Quarantillo said he remained close to fighting shape, just in case. Unlike some fighters, he does what he can to stay at weight even outside of his pre-fight training camps.

It doesn't hurt that he coaches a team of amateurs at the gym he fights out of, Gracie Tampa South MMA.

"I still have to go to the gym pretty much every day to coach those guys and help out the next wave of fighters," he said.

Quarantillo (13-2) is hopeful that will be key to a quick, decisive victory over Carlyle (9-1), whose camp requested the bump to 150 pounds.

He's also had little trouble finding motivation elsewhere.

"He's an interesting character," Quarantillo said. "He's a dangerous fighter, never been finished. His last fight, he actually knocked out someone I train with in Tampa (Aalon Cruz) with what appeared to be an illegal elbow, and I wasn't really happy when I watched that.

"He's also a really big religious guy, and I don't think that's going to make a difference. I believe in God too, but I don't go out of my way to shove it down people's throats."

Ideally for Quarantillo, he ends the fight early and uninjured, earns part of the $50,000 bonus money UFC doles out through its Performance of the Night and Fight of the Night awards, and sets himself up for another fight in July or August.

"My goal right now is to climb the rankings. My goal is always to be a world champion, and I had to get out of a small town, basically move down here to make a name for myself.

"(Being in UFC) a big opportunity, and it completed one of my main goals, the big one. This year, a goal of mine is to break into the top-15, and a couple more wins could do that for me."

Saturday's fights will air on ESPN. Quarantillo's bout is on the main card, which is scheduled to start at 9 p.m.

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