Leandro Higo can’t win the Bellator bantamweight championship on Friday night after missing weight by four pounds at the official weigh-ins, but he still aims to put an end to Eduardo Dantas’ winning streak.
A former RFA and LFA bantamweight champion, Higo will make his promotional debut at Bellator 177 in Budapest, Hungary, and he says “Dudu" is fooling himself with his first-round knockout prediction. Higo, who enters the bout coming off eight straight wins with six finishes, expects to win a decision against Dantas.
"I don’t pay too much attention to what my opponent says, but knocking me out, that’s highly unlikely,” Higo told MMA Fighting. "I want to show him and everyone that I can beat any bantamweight. It will be a tough fight. I won’t be any easy, standing and on the ground. I’ve been studying him for years because he was at the top, and it will be a great fight.”
Dantas doesn’t think Higo deserved to face the champion right away in his Bellator debut, and Higo admits that’s not what he expected when he signed with the promotion earlier this year.
"Bellator is a big promotion and I was already happy to sign with them, and I was actually a bit surprised when they gave me this fight right away,” Higo said. "I think that shows that the promotion believes in me.
"I thought I would need a couple of good wins, quality wins, to earn a title shot, but they gave me this opportunity right away. I was already training, staying ready for my first fight, when (Darrion Caldwell) got hurt and my manager asked me if I wanted to step in. I’d never say no.
"‘Dudu' is a pretty well-rounded fighter,” he continued. "He comes from a jiu-jitsu background but had evolved a lot in other aspects, like wrestling and striking. He’s using his reach a lot now, has a good takedown defense now, but I have to surprise him. I’ll bring the fight to him."
Before signing with Bellator, Higo beloved he was one step away from entering with the UFC.
The bantamweight talent competed at the fourth season of The Ultimate Fighter reality show in Brazil and appeared on Dana White’s Lookin’ for a Fight YouTube show, but decided to follow his teammates Patricio Freire and Patricky Freire to Bellator when offered the chance.
"I was in the UFC’s radar for a while, but I can’t wait,” Higo said. "I have a family, and Bellator was also a dream for me, especially because I train with the (‘Pitbull’) brothers. I went to a Bellator event before (Bellator 141) and one Bellator official asked me why I wasn’t fighting for them yet, and I said ‘just send me a contract.’ After my last fight, the contract came."
And even though he didn’t succeed in his run on The Ultimate Fighter, losing to Bruno Korea, Higo says it turned him into a better mixed martial artist.
"The Ultimate Fighter was an amazing experience,” Higo said. "I didn’t go as well as I expected, but it actually helped me become the athlete I am today. I evolved a lot. It was a blessing in disguise."