Best MMA Fighter - 2012
Before fleeing in 2008 from his native Cuba — a country famous for producing Olympic-caliber wrestlers and boxers — 28-year-old Yoislandy "Cuba" Izquierdo spent his childhood training in karate and sanshou. After serving in the Cuban military, Izquierdo set off on a precarious journey, first to Spain, then to Guatemala, and finally to Mexico, where he was detained for a month before being granted political asylum in the United States. Since arriving in Miami, Izquierdo has trained at the Young Tigers Foundation in Hialeah, honing the lightening-quick striking he learned as a Cuban karate protégé and using it in another sport: mixed martial arts fighting. The lightweight MMA fighter remains undefeated with a 6-0 record, winning the majority of his bouts by knockout. After signing a contract with Ultimate Fighting Championship in January, Izquierdo made his UFC debut April 14, 2012, in Stockholm, Sweden. And he isn't just a rising star — he's bringing the booming sport of MMA to Miami's Cuban-American fans. "In Cuba, we trained for the pure pleasure and joy of it," Izquierdo said in a January interview with MMA site cagejunkie.com. "I just keep training. To fight with rivals better than myself and getting wins until I fight the champion in my weight class, that is my purpose."