Undefeated San Diego bantamweight Alex Soto (pictured) returns to action June 24 when he takes on Seiji Akao at DEEP 54.

You may not have heard of current UWC Mexico featherweight champion* Alex Soto (6-0) yet, but the Tijuana native is hoping that will all change soon.

You see, Soto, who was recently featured as Tapout Magazine’s “fighter of the month”, is hoping that a win in his upcoming fight will open the door to some major opportunities for his career.

On June 24, Soto will face Seiji Akao (13-4) at DEEP 54, taking place at the Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, Japan.

Soto spoke with ProMMAnow.com‘s Josh Cross this past week about his upcoming bout with Akao, his training camp and how he feels the two match up. He also shared an interesting story about how he got involved in MMA, how doing a tour of duty in Afghanistan helped his fight game and more.

PRO MMA NOW: Can you talk a little bit about your training camp for this fight and how that’s been going?

ALEX SOTO: I’ve been training at San Diego Combat Academy located down in Mission Gorge here in San Diego. I’ve been training with my Team Hurricane Awesome, which there are a couple of guys. I’ll just name a few; Kyle Watson, Kevin Dunsmoor, and also I’ve been training with Liz Carmouche, one of the Strikeforce fighters. So yeah, I’ve been working a lot on our game and our style of fighting. We’ve also been working on a lot of wrestling, a lot of jiu-jitsu, and just getting everything ready to go for this fight. We’re ready to go wherever this fight goes.

PRO MMA NOW: What do you know about your opponent, and how do you think you two match up going into this fight?

ALEX SOTO: My opponent is Seiji Akao. He’s a good fighter. I think he’s got a lot of fights under his belt. He’s got 13 wins. He’s got a good wrestling background. He’s also a super tough guy. His losses have come by decision so I mean he’s a tough guy. I think we’re going to match up very well with my style of fighting as well.

PRO MMA NOW: Now you became the UWC Mexico featherweight champion in April. What was that like to win, and how has that impacted your career since then?

ALEX SOTO: That was a good turning point in my career. It was very special representing Mexico. I mean that’s where I was born, in Tijuana. Fighting down there, the home crowd has taken to me very well. It was my first fight where I was fighting somebody who was on paper a lot better than me, so it was a good way to test myself, and that win ended up getting me looked at and that’s how I got Alchemist Management also. It just definitely has brought up a lot of other opportunities as well.

PRO MMA NOW: You enlisted into the military following 9/11. Can you talk about your experience there and how that has helped you in your MMA career?

ALEX SOTO: Yeah, sure. With the military you hear a lot about discipline and you hear a lot about how tough it is when you’re out in a wartime. When I joined I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into. All I knew was that I wanted to go and go on this adventure you know, and that’s what I got. I ended up going to Afghanistan. I spent a year out there and it was a tough year with being away from the family and just being in a country where you’re really not liked or even welcomed. So that kind of mentality helps you get mentally stronger and I’m sure you’ve heard this a lot in the sport that it’s all a mental game. So spending a year away from friends and family, it really makes you that much tougher, and I think that’s why a lot of military folks do very well in the sport.

PRO MMA NOW: Can you talk about how the military, Gracie instructional DVDs, and gas prices played a role in how you got involved with MMA?

ALEX SOTO: Sure. Back in 2004, I was deployed during that time, and during our downtime one of my buddies had bought those Gracie instructional DVDs, and we got into it and started watching. We were really into the UFC at the time and so we had a tent and we’d lay out some mats that we ended up putting together and we had an awesome, like a little cabin almost that was set up, and we trained jiu-jitsu. So we watched the videos, learned some moves, and then went out to the mats and tried to do the moves. We’d have little open mat sessions and stuff like that from different places. It was a lot of fun and that’s kind of what got me into thinking, “Hey I can probably do this, you know, professionally.” But I was miles away from home, and [fighting professionally] was the last thing on my mind. But gas prices in San Diego were getting ridiculous. I mean right now they’re starting to finally cool off, but I was a college guy trying to barely make ends meat and lucky I lived close to Tijuana and Mexico’s gas prices were cheap. They were $2 a gallon. When they went up to almost $5 a gallon here in San Diego I just went down to Tijuana and filled up on gas. When I was down there one time my brother said, “Hey man, there’s an MMA gym if you’re down there. I’ll go with you and we can start training.” So I ended up going down there and we ended up training and next thing I knew I was going there every day and just working a lot of MMA. After a new few months there I ended up switching gyms to here in San Diego, which was closer to my house. I switched to the San Diego Combat Academy, and I’ve been there every since. It just started and one thing led to another.

PRO MMA NOW: You were recently profiled as Tapout Magazine’s “fighter of the month”. What was that like and what kind of feedback have you gotten since getting that exposure?

ALEX SOTO: It was an honor. It was awesome to hear that I was “fighter of the month” for Tapout. That’s one of the biggest sponsors out there and it was very special. It was definitely a very special moment in my career. It just gives me that motivation to get out there and perform my best coming up [in my fight] this next week.

PRO MMA NOW: Now with everything you have accomplished so far in your career, and while you are fighting overseas in Japan, what would you say to fans as to why they should make sure to remember your name going forward?

ALEX SOTO: I try to make the fights as exciting as I can. Those are some of the things that a lot of fighters say too, and I say this all the time and it sounds ridiculous, but I want to be champion some day. I want to become a world champion and in my head and for the people around me who believe in me, they really believe that I can do that. So I’ll tell you that right now that I want to be world champion some day and hopefully I’ll have an opportunity to prove that.

PRO MMA NOW: Obviously you want to become champion, but are there any other short-term or long-term goals that you have for your career?

ALEX SOTO: Well the short-term goal right now all I’m thinking about is the fighter that I have in front of me right now. He is the door to other opportunities and every fight that I have right now is the most important fight of my career. As long as I keep it that way, that will take me to the top, and that’s what matters.

PRO MMA NOW: What would be the best way for fans to keep track of what you’ve got coming up in the future?

ALEX SOTO: Follow me on Twitter (@SotoMMA), and you can look me up on Facebook as well, and fans can expect me to be fighting all over the world.

PRO MMA NOW: Are there any sponsors you want to plug or people that you want to thank?

ALEX SOTO: First I’d like to thank Alchemist MMA for setting this up. I’ve got Guard Ya Grill sponsoring me for this fight as well. They do a lot of mouthpieces and stuff like that. Also Ranger Up of course, and my family and friends. And Team Hurricane Awesome from San Diego Combat Academy.

PRO MMA NOW: Is there anything else you would like to add?

ALEX SOTO: Just wish me luck for June 24, when I get to show my art to Japan.

*Although Alex Soto is the UWC Mexico featherweight champ, he normally fights at bantamweight.

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