Iuri Alcantara carries his homeland Marajo as a nickname every time he enters the Octagon, and it won’t be different now that he’s fighting one of UFC’s biggest stars.
Born and raised in Marajo, an island close to Belem, the Brazilian decided to move to Las Vegas to train with one of his idols, Wanderlei Silva, for his upcoming fight against Urijah Faber on Saturday at UFC Fight Night 26.
Before traveling to Boston for the bout, Alcantara took some time to speak to MMAFighting.com about his training with Silva. Yuri learned a lot with the former Pride champion, but don’t expect him to take some pages from Silva’s book and become an "Axe Murderer" inside the Octagon.
"Wanderlei gave me a lot of tips, but we have different fighting styles," Alcantara told MMAFighting.com. "My weight class is lighter so we have to move a lot more. Despite being so different in many aspects, our focus is always fight for the win no matter what. It was a great experience. Michael (Costa) helped me a lot so I know I’m ready for this fight, really focused."
Alcantara’s mission, however, isn’t easy. Faber has never lost in non-title fights in his 10 years as a professional fighter, but he wants to change that stats.
"It's going to be a tough fight, but I know I will win," he said. "It’s going to be an awesome fight. We will give a show to the fans. I’m sure we are both ready to go. He is a great opponent, he likes to stand and is really explosive, and also has a good ground game. It’s going to be a great opportunity for me to show my work."
A win over Alcantara could give Faber his third shot for a UFC title, following submission victories over Scott Jorgensen and Ivan Menjivar. Alcantara won’t let that happen, as he expects a 3-round war against "The California Kid".
"I have to get in there with a good strategy, be ready for everything," he said. "I’m going for the knockout or a submission like always, but he’s really tough. I know he will be prepared, so I trained for a three-round war."
Alcantara signed with WEC back in 2010 as a lightweight and mauled Ricardo Lamas in his debut, scoring a first-round knockout. He then dropped to the 145 pounds for his first fight under the UFC banner, defeating Felipe Arantes and Michihiro Omigawa.
A loss to Hacran Dias at UFC 147 snapped his 13-fight win streak and taught him some lessons, and he found the perfect weight class for him at 135 pounds.
"I found my division, and I want to show how good I am," said "Marajo", who is undefeated since moving to the bantamweight division. "I learned a lot from that fight (against Hacran Dias). I saw some flaws on my game against him, so that loss was very important for me. I still have some flaws, things to work on, but I’m getting more technical now, calmer. I wanted to finish (Dias) all the time so I left openings for the takedowns, but I’m calmer now. If I get the knockout, great. If we go to the ground and I get the submission, great too. But I’m fighting to win."
A victory on Saturday takes Alcantara to another level in the UFC, and he believes that the fact that he has a win over the guy that is waiting for a shot at Jose Aldo’s featherweight title would boost him to the top of the division.
"It was his (Ricardo) Lamas’ loss, so that helps me on the rankings too," he said. "I’m happy for him now that he’s closer to a title shot, so that makes people look at me with other eyes because I defeated him. I knew he was very tough, he was fighting at WEC for a long time and it was my debut, but I was well trained and focused. When I am well trained and focused, I’m sure I can beat anyone."
He praises "The Bully", but doesn’t believe he has what it takes to dethrone the featherweight champion if they ever fight.
"Aldo wins the fight, no doubt about that," Yuri said. "Aldo is very talented, he’s showing the whole world that the other fighters will have to work a lot to take his belt. I’m sure Aldo will knock him out."