SAO PAULO, Brazil -- Fighting at the historic UFC 205 event was a unique opportunity. Being scheduled to compete in New York and see yourself get removed from the card due to your opponent’s injury would disappoint pretty much every MMA fighter.
Except Marcos Rogerio de Lima.
The UFC announced a light heavyweight clash between Lima and Gian Villante for Nov. 12 at Madison Square Garden, and the Brazilian fighter was excited about it. Yet, he still celebrated when he was eventually moved to UFC Fight Night 100 in Sao Paulo, Brazil, a week later, to face Gadzhimurad Antigulov.
"They booked me to fight in New York and I was happy, that’s a historic event, but I knew about the card in Sao Paulo and I really wanted to fight here," Lima told MMA Fighting. "I’m a ‘paulista’, brother. I was born as an athlete at the Ibirapuera gymnasium, and I lived there for four and a half years. Even if the New York event was a historic one, it’s a thousand times better to fight at Ibirapuera because of my history."
When Lima says he has lived at the Ibirapuera gymnasium, it’s not a metaphor. Before he started his MMA career, "Pezao" competed as a kickboxer in Brazil, and he spent almost five years living inside the gymnasium in Sao Paulo.
"I competed as a kickboxer there for years, I was part of the national kickboxing team, and I trained and lived inside the gymnasium," Lima explains. "My first UFC fight was there, too, and it would suck to have a UFC event in Sao Paulo without me fighting there. I loved that I’m fighting in Sao Paulo instead of New York. This is my home."
"That’s where I truly became an athlete," he continued. "It was a tough time for me because I had no money and had to quit my job to focus on my career. Paulo Zorello (president of the Brazilian kickboxing federation) helped me a lot. He taught me, and gave me some classes to teach. I had a lot of Olympic athletes around me every day, so I learned what it took to become an athlete."
Lima also has good memories of the Ibirapuera gymnasium as a UFC fighter. After being part of The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil reality show as a heavyweight, Lima made quick work of Richardson Moreira at the TUF Finale card, winning by knockout in just 20 seconds.
At UFC Fight Night 100, "Pezao" anticipates a complicated bout against Antigulov.
"Villante has a bigger name and it would be a bigger fight, but Antigulov is even tougher than him. I think it’s a good fight to put me in the top 15," Lima said. "Villante is a pure striker, and Antigulov is a wrestler who can also strike. He has more experience than Villante overall in MMA, too. It’s a tougher match-up and a bigger test for me in the UFC so I can prove I belong in the top 15."
Going into the fight with a 3-1 UFC record with three first-round finishes, Lima vows to beat his opponent up in front of his countrymen.
"He’s a finisher. He goes in there to stop his opponents quickly, and I have the same fighting style," Lima said. "It will be like two trucks colliding. I had a great camp at American Top Team, and I will beat him up. If we have 10 rounds to fight, I will go forward for 10 rounds. I will go for the finish all the times. I will make him fight hard."