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Diego Brandao: Loss to Conor McGregor was 'a learning experience for me'

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Diego Brandao headlined his first UFC card against Conor McGregor last July, replacing injured Cole Miller in a little over then a month’s notice, and he doesn’t regret that decision.

Brandao, who dropped to 4-3 in the UFC with a first-round TKO loss to "The Notorious" at UFC Fight Night 46, looks back at the night as a learning experience.

"I took that fight because I wanted to fight in a main event. It was a great opportunity that the UFC gave me, so I took it," Brandao told "I thought I would need security in Dublin, but I had a lot of fans rooting for me there. It was a learning experience for me. I know the next time I headline a UFC card, against Conor or anyone else, will be completely different. I will start it all over against at UFC 183."

Winner of the 14th season of The Ultimate Fighter, Brandao returns to the preliminary card to face Jimy Hettes at Saturday’s UFC 183 in Las Vegas, and changed a few things in his training camp for this bout. Instead of training at Jackson’s MMA in Albuquerque, the featherweight returned to Brazil.

"I decided to do my training camp in Brazil to get closer to my family during the holidays," he said. "I trained in Sao Paulo, working on my jiu-jitsu. I needed to feel more complete, so I trained at 011 MMA Team with ‘Pezão’ (Marcos Rogerio de Lima), coach Barbosinha and many great training partners. It was amazing."

Two of Brandao’s UFC wins came with submissions, including a first-round armbar over Dennis Bermudez at the TUF 14 finale, and he’s not afraid to go to the ground with Hettes, who scored two of his three UFC victories on the ground.

"I guess he thinks he can beat me up in jiu-jitsu, but I’m well trained in all areas," Brandao said. "I want to keep it standing. Sprawl and punches. Sprawl and kicks. He’s not as explosive, not as aggressive as I am. The only thing that we have in common is jiu-jitsu. I heard he’s training in a gi, but you can’t learn gi jiu-jitsu in three months. That takes five or six years to learn, and I do this since I was 15. I’m a black belt. And I’m way better than him in the striking area."

With his back against the wall after consecutive losses to Dustin Poirier and McGregor, Brandao looks to impress on Saturday night.

"It’s an important moment for me, coming off two losses. I have to be more aggressive now, more Diego Brandao, show my heart," he said. "Those losses are in the past. Time heals everything and teaches us to be stronger. It’s going to be a war inside the Octagon. I’ll see what he's got, and then I’ll knock him out."