Felipe Arantes has looked impressive as a bantamweight, and one of the things that helped him perform better has nothing to do with weight cuts.
"Sertanejo" tapped Yves Jabouin and Jerrod Sanders in his first bouts at 135 pounds, and explains that facing mixed martial arts as fun instead of a cash-grabbing activity helps him inside the Octagon.
"I’m not the type of guy that wants to fight every three or four months," Arantes told MMA Fighting. "I have other things to take care outside of my fights, like my gym. It’s the (UFC’s) option now. It’s good to stay active because I stay focused and motivated on my training, so there’s this positive side of fighting all the time."
Arantes, who returns to action on Nov. 5 against Erik Perez, helps supports his wife and first child with the money he makes with the MMA gym he owns in Sao Paulo, and that takes a lot off of his shoulders when he’s competing.
"That’s one of the main reasons why I decided to partner with my coach and open my gym," Arantes said. "When you’re fighting worried about money and the bills you have to pay, it blocks you. You don’t perform the same way.
"Unfortunately, that’s a normal situation in our country because nobody supports fighters, and MMA fighters depend a lot on their win money to pay the bills. With my gym, I obviously need to win my fights, especially because I’m presenting them and the brand, but the financial aspect of it helps me a lot."
That doesn’t mean the money he makes with fighting doesn’t help, though. "Sertanejo" makes his 10th walk to the Octagon in Mexico City, and aims to win another post-fight bonus to make more plans for the future.
"I pay my bills with the money I make with my gym," said "Sertanejo," who won a "Performance of the Night" bonus for his win over Jabouin in 2015. "When I win a bonus in the UFC, I can change my plans a bit, maybe switch cars. And the gym is not always great, too, you have bills to pay, especially in this crisis we’re going through in Brazil that affected everybody. But it’s obvious that I always want to win and always want a bonus. Money is never enough."
At 2-0 as a bantamweight, Arantes rules out the idea of ever coming back to featherweight. And having to control his diet is something that also helped him become more professional.
"Featherweight is in the past now," said the Brazilian. "I wasn’t so focused as I should be. I always loved fighting. I’m that guy that loves to fight but doesn’t love to train that much, so I started looking at training as a job.
"I need it to fight better and win, and that’s why I decided to get my act together, move to the right division and fights guys my size and strength. I usually weight 165 pounds, and there are featherweights to cut down from 180 pounds, like my teammate Lucas Martins. It’s a new phase in my career, and I have everything to go to the top and fight for my dream."
"Sertanejo’s" opponent in Mexico City, Perez holds a 16-6 MMA record with six UFC victories, including three first-round stoppages. "Goyito" faces Arantes fresh off a decision victory over Francisco Rivera, and the Brazilian doesn’t expect an easy night of work.
"He’s a well-rounded fighter," Arantes said. "I watched his last fight against Rivera. He has a good muay thai, some unorthodox strikes, a good jiu-jitsu. He’s a good match-up. I know it’s going to be a war wherever the fight goes."
"I’m always looking to stand and bang, but if he decides to take me down, my ju-jitsu is there," he added. "I never try going to the ground, you’ll hardly see me shooting for takedowns, but I train jiu-jitsu as much as I do muay thai. If he tries to take mw down, we’ll see who has the better jiu-jitsu.
"I’m ready to go to the top. I’m coming off two wins in this division, and God willing I’ll beat him up and get the third now."
Arantes will be fighting in enemy territory in Mexico, but he knows that competing in front of your countryman doesn’t always put you in advantage. The Chute Boxe fighter, who went 2-1 when facing non-Brazilians in Brazil, expects the Mexican crowd to put an extra pressure over Perez.
"The positive aspect of (not fighting in Brazil) is the lack of this responsibility," Arantes said. "There’s one less weight over your shoulders, you don’t have that thing of needing to win because you’re fighting at home. When the Octagon door closes, it doesn’t matter where you if you’re in Brazil or in Canada or anywhere else. When the door closes, you have to fight."