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Thomas Almeida expected better-ranked opponent than Albert Morales

Guilherme Cruz, MMA Fighting

Thomas Almeida is one of the top prospects in the UFC bantamweight division, but the first defeat of his professional career forced him down the rankings.

Almeida headlined UFC Fight Night 88 against Cody Garbrandt in May, but was stopped in the first round by the Team Alpha Male talent. Six months later, "Thominhas" returns to action in the co-main event of UFC Fight Night 100 on Saturday in Sao Paulo, Brazil, against Albert Morales, and admits he was hoping for a better-ranked opponent on Nov. 19.

"A fight is a fight, and every athlete in the UFC is a great athlete, so I’m going there to do my job and win," Almeida said during a recent media day. "I wanted to fight someone ranked higher than me, but it didn’t work. But I’m sure this opponent will be tough and I will have to prove I’m ready. My focus is on Morales now.

"I want so bad to get (at the top of the division that pressure) doesn’t bother me," he continued. "I see this as a motivation, and nothing has changed. It was one step back to take more steps forward. I never said the road would be easy, but it’s part of the experience to go through challenges to become a real champion."

The Chute Boxe fighter admits he didn’t even know who Morales was when his coach and manager Diego Lima called him to inform him of his next bout. A former BAMMA, RFA and Bellator fighter, Morales enters the cage holding a 6-0-1 record after fighting to a draw with Alejandro Perez in his UFC debut in September.

"I didn’t know him, so I looked up on YouTube on my phone and watched some of his fights," Almeida said. "I didn’t know him, but I saw that he’s a tough guy who likes to stand. He’s taller, too. I will have more time to analyze and set a strategy. But I wanted to fight, I didn’t care who or where. There’s no easy fight in the UFC."

Almeida was expected to be a part of the UFN 100 card in Sao Paulo since the event was first announced by the promotion, but he was only added to the card a month before. He won’t have more than four weeks to prepare specifically for Morales, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t training.

"I’ve been training since my last fight, so I was thrilled to get the news," Almeida said. "I’m happy to be fighting at home. (Fighting on short notice) is not a problem. I wasn’t doing anything specific, I was just looking to evolve in all areas. Now it’s time to work on the things I need to do in the fight."