By Caoilte de Barra
Colombia will have two athletes competing for gold medals at the 2022 Pan American Championships. The nation came into the competition with a team of eight athletes and is set to walk away with at least six medals come the competition’s close.
One of the standouts has been Mateo Lara, who is the most experienced athlete on the team as he nears the twenty-match mark in his amateur career. Despite having so much experience, the Pan American Championships was his first experience competing abroad, something he is grateful for. He said:
“I feel very honoured to have the opportunity to fight in Mexico since it is my first time in a foreign cage. The people here are very friendly and very hospitable. Excellent people and athletes, I feel very happy.”
He went on to add how his experience is a factor in winning but isn’t the primary reason.
“Experience will always be a determining factor. But more the heart and the love that I have for this sport.”
Growing up in Colombia was not always easy for Lara. He directed his anger the wrong way and got into quite a lot of fights. However, after finding Martial Arts, he steered his life in a different direction and now aspires to be like Nate Diaz, Conor McGregor and Cody Garbrandt.
“Since I was very little, I have liked to fight, but in my school life, I directed it negatively. I was a problematic boy.” Lara said. “In the past, in every situation, I was searching for a fight. Really, I don’t feel fear, and I feel alive when I fight. After I turned 18 years old, I thought different; about legal implications or the worst case, death.
“Thanks to my current Coach Mauricio Daza, I met Professor César Moreno, who trained me from scratch and showed me the martial arts path. Today I just want to contribute to society and show people with stories similar to mine that there is another path, the path of good.”
Ahead of his gold medal matchup with Mexico’s Jaime Sierra, he anticipates an exciting contest.
“Always expect a war from me. Whoever wants to beat me must be willing to die. I don’t like easy fights, and my rival is, without a doubt, a great fighter. From the beginning, I wanted to fight him, and now we will do it in the final. I am excited.”
The Colombian athlete is very far along in his amateur career and has not decided on what his next step will be just yet, but teased the idea of featuring at the World Championships.
“If I can count on the economic means without thinking twice, I will go to the World Championships. I will only go pro if I receive a good proposal outside my country.”
If all goes to plan tomorrow, Colombia may have two new Pan American Champions on their hands and the first IMMAF gold medals for the nation. Regardless of the results, it has been a spectacular showing from Colombia. All of tomorrow’s action will be available internationally on immaf.tv and in Mexico (only) on Facebook, starting at 11 am (UTC-5) local time with an estimated run time of 5 hours.