SAO PAULO -- When the UFC announced the complete cast of heavyweights for the third season of the Ultimate Fighter in Brazil, Vitor Miranda was immediately considered the favorite to advance to the finale. He did it with two TKO victories, but it would never have happened if he had decided to stop fighting in 2011.
Miranda lived in Florida, when his son Igor, 4, was found dead inside the pool. It was his birthday, and the family was devastated. The MMA fighter returned to Brazil, and considered leaving the sport, but the support of his wife Paula helped him move on.
"I discussed this with my wife several times, if I should continue fighting or not," Miranda told MMAFighting.com. "I realized I needed to move on and keep fighting or everything would have been for nothing."
Miranda (9-3) has never lost since then. He went 4-0 in professional fights before entering the reality show and defeated Antonio Branjao and Richardson Moreira during the show. A win over Antonio Carlos Jr. at TUF: Brazil 3 Finale on Saturday night in Sao Paulo would be the best way to honor his son.
"This is what I wanted for so long," said Miranda who had a daughter with Paula two years later. "Being the Ultimate Fighter winner would prove that I made the right decision when my wife supported me to keep fighting. It was the right call not to give up. Every time I fight is to honor him."
The Team Nogueira veteran knows he needs to keep emotions out of the cage, especially against a dangerous prospect like "Cara de Sapato".
"I’m anxious to finally live this moment. This is something I every fought for," he said. "I will enjoy every second of it. I’m really focused and calm, but anxious to get in there, hear the crowd and get in that Octagon to work.
"It’s going to be a war," he continued. "He showed why he deserved to be in the final. He surprised everybody. I need to be careful with him. He made his MMA debut last year, and is already among the best, so I’ll fight him as I was in a title fight because I know he’s going there to win and it’s going to be a brawl.
"I think he’s going to do what has worked for him so far. He trades a little and then goes to the ground. I'm ready to fight him everywhere."
A win Saturday night would make Miranda the oldest fighter to ever win a season of the reality show, and the 34-year-old heavyweight knows being at the show would be the best way to finally be where he wanted.
"This is the best opportunity to enter the UFC," he said. "If I didn’t go through the Ultimate Fighter, I would probably need to fight a couple times more here in Brazil to earn a chance in the UFC, so this is the best way to get in the UFC by the front door and be well known by the fans."
Miranda went 2-0 in the show with a pair of finishes and he’s proud of that, but wants to show more.
"The reality show never shows the reality of our fights," he said. "We never do our best in there. I’m proud that I was able to show a preview of my fights in there, and the fans will watch more and more in the UFC. I was proud of my performance."