Rafaello Oliveira has had a tough run in the UFC.
Since he first entered the Octagon against Nik Lentz in 2009, "Tractor" fought some of the toughest challenges in the division. In his second run in the UFC, the Brazilian took on Gleison Tibau on short notice and entered the cage against the likes of Yves Edwards and Edson Barboza.
He gets another chance under the UFC banner this Saturday night in Las Vegas, Nev., against Erik Koch. A win could not only guarantee his job, but also put him on another level in the lightweight division.
"I think it’s a good match-up for me," Oliveira told MMAFighting.com. "He always tries to counter, so I’ll be smart to wait for the best time to attack with a takedown or standing. I’ll do my best and pressure him all the time."
"A win over Erik Koch will be great for me. I need to win this fight."
The key to get his hands raised after the bout, according to the Brazilian, is get inside the Octagon with no injuries.
"I broke my hands four times over the past few years and it was a big issue for me," he said. "I had to fight with a broken hand against Yoislandy Izquierdo, so I couldn’t use my right hand in the fight. I couldn’t even train with all those injuries, but I feel great now.
"He’s a tough fighter," he continued. "There’s no easy fight in the UFC, so we have to accept anyone they put in front of us. I need to get in there relaxed to do what I have to do to win this fight. I need to do a good performance, something that I wasn’t able to do in the UFC yet. My biggest goal in the UFC today is to do a great fight."
Even with all those injuries, Oliveira never considered retiring from MMA.
"I don’t see myself leaving the sport," he said. "I love to train and to compete. I love to have a goal in my career. When someone says I can’t do it, I feel hungry to go there and prove that I can."
Koch, who had an impressive four-fight win streak in the featherweight division but never had his title shot materialized, makes his lightweight debut at UFC 170. He better be ready to bring his best to the table, though, because Oliveira is used to fighting top competition.
"I had losses to Yves Edwards and Gleison Tibau, but the fight I felt I couldn’t do anything was against (Edson) Barboza," Oliveira said. "It’s not like he was the toughest one or that he hits harder than the others, but he completely annulled my game.
"His kicks are heavy, and they are so fast that you can’t defend it. The key is the speed, and it’s impressive."