Jussier Formiga is getting closer to a title shot in the UFC, and all the hard work he has done is the past motivates him to bring the flyweight belt to Brazil.
Born and raised in Natal, Rio Grande do Norte, a state where 13 percent of the population is extremely poor (the average salary is $200 a month), da Silva always had to work to help bringing money to his family.
Before signing with the UFC, "Formiga" was considered the world’s best 125-pound fighter, but he still had to work as a courier for a local hospital to make a living.
"Life was always very tough for me," Jussier told MMAFighting.com "Working as a courier and training everyday to fight … I remember all the storms I had to face, everything I had to do with my motorcycle, but thank God all my work paid off. Today, I can finally live to fight."
"I had to work seven hours and drive 100 miles every day for Varela Santiago hospital. They treat kids with cancer, so there were a few places I had to go to collect donations for them," he added.
Fortunately for him, he never suffered any serious accidents while riding his motorcycle in the chaotic Brazilian traffic.
"I’ve been through a lot of stuff," da Silva said. "I had to argue with a lot of people in the streets, nobody respects (motorcycles) here. But thank God I only crashed once, and it wasn’t that bad."
Riding a motorcycle by day and sparring at Kimura Nova Uniao gym by night, with the likes of Renan Barao, Ronny Markes and Claudia Gadelha, isn’t an easy routine, but his family used to care more about his MMA career than the danger of spending seven hours per day on the top of a motorcycle.
"My mom never watches my fights, so I believe she cares more with my fights than my motorcycle," Formiga said with a laugh.
According to the Minnesota Office of Combative Sports, Formiga was paid $9,000 in his UFC debut, when he got knocked out by The Ultimate Fighter season 14 winner John Dodson. That may not look too much if compared with the money paid to the big UFC stars, but it was good enough for the 28-year-old Brazilian.
"I never made the money I’m making now in the UFC, and now I can dedicate myself to fight and have a better life with that," he said.
Former Shooto South America 123-pound champion da Silva returned to the win column with a unanimous decision victory over Chris Cariaso at UFC on FX 8 in Brazil, and it was enough to bring his confidence back.
"That was a great fight," Formiga said. "I was a little anxious because I didn’t win my debut, but thank God everything went right."
"I believe so," he said when asked if he will earn a title shot with a win next month. "But I try not to think too much about that. I rather focus on the fight itself. The preparation is perfect. I will fight him in every aspect of the fight, I will put my heart there. He’s one of the toughest guys in this division. Winning this fight, I will leave that up to the UFC if I’m getting a shot to the title or not, but this possibility motivates me a lot."
The reigning champion in the flyweight division is Demetrious Johnson, but "Formiga" believes he has what it takes to dethrone "Mighty Mouse".
"Demetrious is a fast and well-rounded fighter, but he doesn’t change too much," da Silva said. "I believe my ground game is good (compared to other fighters from) this division, but I have to surprise them on the feet too. I will find a way to win."