Roan Carneiro earned a ticket to get back in the UFC with three wins in one night at BattleGrounds MMA welterweight tournament in October, and his first bout inside the Octagon will be against No. 13 ranked middleweight Mark Munoz at UFC 184.
"Jucao", who went 2-3 in his first run in the UFC, couldn’t say no to an offer to return to the UFC even though he will have to fight for the first time at 185 pounds since his old Vale Tudo days in Brazil.
"I’m happy. I’m thrilled," Carneiro told MMAFighting.com. "In my mind, I should never have left the UFC in the first place because I didn’t lose my last fight (to Ryo Chonan) here, but it happens. In the meantime, I kept fighting and started working as a coach, opened my gym in the United States and had my kids. I’m back in the UFC because of my great performances, especially the last ones in the one-night tournament."
Munoz was originally scheduled to meet Caio Magalhaes on Feb. 28 in Los Angeles, but the Brazilian was forced out of the bout with an injury. As soon as he heard the news, Carneiro’s manager offered him as a replacement.
He was fresh off wins over Buddy Wallace, Trey Houston and Brock Larson, including a pair of finishes, to win the BattleGrounds MMA 170-pound tourney, and was confident he could jump to 185 pounds and add another win to his record.
"I was with my manager when he heard that Caio got hurt. He asked me if I would like to fight at 185 pounds, and I said yes," he said. "I haven’t fought at 185 pounds in a long time, but I cut too much weight to fight at 170, so I took the fight. I know all the risks. I only train with heavier guys, so I don’t mind fighting at 185 pounds."
After taking the middleweight division by storm in 2010 and 2011, "The Filipino Wrecking Machine" needs to get back on track after a 1-3 run in his past four bouts with losses to Lyoto Machida, Gegard Mousasi and Chris Weidman.
"He’s ranked No. 13 in the middleweight division and has all the responsibility to win," Carneiro said of Munoz. "It couldn’t be better. He’s lost two in a row. Technically, (the UFC) gave him this fight to win, but he has no idea what’s about to happen. He has no idea. I’m a horrible fight for him. I have nothing to lose."
Carneiro plans on dropping back to 170 pounds after his fight with Munoz, but doesn’t rule out staying at middleweight with a win.
"Winning this fight, I can stay at 185 or drop back to 170. I might jump right into a fight with a top 15 in the welterweight division," he said. "(Munoz) has no idea the fight he’s about to get in. If he’s expecting an easy fight, that he’s going to steamroll me, wait for Saturday night."
Spending the last few years as a coach and a fighter helped him create that "any time, any weight" mentality.
"I always spar with the fighters I train. I’m a modern coach," "Jucao" said. "I spar with Douglas Lima and Dhiego Lima all the time. Even ‘Bigfoot’ Silva. I went to Brazil for a media day with him and sparred three times in a week– and he’s four divisions heavier than me. It wasn’t hard because of that.
"Sometimes I forget that I’m training for a fight and start paying attention to other fighters in the gym during training, try to fix their mistakes, but my coaches were always there to stop me [laughs]."
"Jucao" stopped four of his past five opponents before signing with the UFC, and expects to finish Munoz in the UFC 184 preliminary bout at the Staples Center.
"Wherever the fight goes, I’m fine," he said. "Few people know about this, but I have a great wrestling. I’ve trained with the Brazilian wrestling team for years. I lived two years in Europe, training with lots of great wrestlers and Olympic champions. I have a gym in Atlanta, and I train three times a week with Raymond Jordan, who competed in the 2012 Olympic Games in London. I’m not worried about (Munoz’s) wrestling.
"I’m feeling more comfortable in the stand up too. I have knockout power. If everything that’s happening in the gym happens in the fight… wow," he continued. "If the fight goes to the ground, I won the no-gi world championship last year. I’ve competed in the ADCC, I have wins over guys like Andre Galvao and Thales Leites. I feel better and more complete every day. Wherever the fight goes, I’ll be fine.
"I believe I will finish him. Knockout or submission. It could happen in the first round or in the last round, but I will finish this fight. I will either knock him out or submit him."