Antonio Braga Neto will finally return to the Octagon at UFC Fight Night 44, and he wants to show more of his jiu-jitsu arsenal.
Braga Neto, a multiple-time jiu-jitsu world champion, made quick work of Anthony Smith in his UFC debut last June, and takes on Clint Hester on Saturday night in San Antonio, Texas, after recovering from several injuries.
"I see this fight as my UFC debut all over again," Braga Neto told MMAFighting.com. "After my first fight I heard people it was an easy one, but I hurt my nose and ribs during the fight, and then I had a shoulder injury that kept me off for a long time. I’m finally back, so I see this as a new UFC debut. I’m really happy to be fighting at the main card of an international card. I’m super happy to be fighting in the United States."
Hester enters the bout riding a six-fight win streak, but the fact that he suffered two of his three losses via submissions boosts Braga Neto’s confident.
"That’s the easiest way to win, but you can’t forget that surprises are the best way to finish a fight," he said. "You will always expect me to use my jiu-jitsu to win, so nobody will expect me to keep it standing and punch you in the face, kick or knee you. If I have the opportunity, I will surprise my opponent.
"Every fight is an evolution. I have evolved a lot in other areas like wrestling and striking. I’m a well-rounded fighter now. I’m ready to stand and trade punches with him if necessary, get the takedown and use my jiu-jitsu to finish the fight as soon as possible."
Braga Neto respects Hester, but he’s confident his world class jiu-jitsu is good enough to beat anyone. And he really means anyone, in any weight division.
"If I have the opportunity to use my jiu-jitsu, I can submit anyone," he said. "You’re wasting your time if you’re training jiu-jitsu to fight me. You have to train when you have a chance to defeat me. Few men can escape from my submissions.
"Few people will have the ground game that I do. I started training jiu-jitsu when I was 4 years old. If I didn’t believe I can submit anyone, I would never be fighting. In my mind, it doesn’t matter if you’re a middleweight, a welterweight or a heavyweight, I can take you down and submit you. Or submit you from the bottom."
Regardless of the outcome of Saturday’s fight, Braga Neto wants to cut down from middleweight to welterweight for his following UFC bouts.
"That’s my plan. I’m working on that," he said. "I will talk to my doctors, do some exams and see if it’s possible. I can easily make 185 pounds, but I don’t know if I can make 170. I will also talk to the UFC and see if they are interested in having me fighting at 170."
"I train to be the champion. I train to be the number one, not to be another one."