Many fighters hesitate to take a fight in Brazil, and some even run from the idea of competing in the South American country.
It’s understandable why a U.S.-based fighter would be reluctant to fight a Brazilian in Brazil. After all, flights from the U.S. to Brazil can run 12 hours long, some fighters have experienced issues dealing with the Brazilian athletic commission, CABMMA (ask Kelvin Gastelum), and there has also been some questionable fight scoring in the past favoring local guys.
On top of that, away fighters also get a rough welcome to the cage, as a full stadium of passionate fans will be chanting “You’re going to die!” in Portuguese from the very first step they set in the arena.
But there are some fighters, like Matthew Lopez, who quite frankly don't mind fighting in enemy territory, as there are factors that can override the things that come with fighting in Brazil.
“The biggest thing was the guy I was fighting,” Lopez told MMA Fighting. “Johnny Eduardo is ranked high and I just couldn't pass it by. I don't really give a sh*t where I fight, I always come in with the attitude that you have to finish the fight anyway, you have to be impressive, so I’m not really worried about the judges or the crowd or any thing about Brazil. I took the fight solely because I want to take the guy’s ranking, there was no hesitation in that one, I was 100 percent.”
Lopez is scheduled to take on Eduardo in Eduardo’s hometown of Rio de Janeiro as part of the FS1 preliminary card of Saturday’s UFC 212. The 30-year-old American was surprised to have received the call to fight Eduardo, as the Nova Uniao product is currently in the top 10 of the bantamweight rankings and Lopez is unranked and fairly new to the UFC.
“Yeah, I was actually really surprised,” Lopez said. “When I fought both Rani Yahya and Mitch Gagnon, they were both in the top 15 and I was surprised when I got those two calls, you know. After beating Mitch Gagnon, I was hoping for another top-15 guy. I just didn't know who it was, so I was very surprised when I got Johnny Eduardo.”
Despite having the matchup catch him by surprise, Lopez, who trains out of Genesis Training Center in Denver, Colo., is quite confident he’ll upset the Brazilian, as he believes he has the advantage anywhere the fight goes.
“I think I match up very well,” Lopez explained. “He’s got a lot of fights, he’s a veteran, he's faced some tough dudes, but I know I’m faster than him. He hits hard, he throws wild punches, but on the ground I’m better than him for sure. I think I have an advantage in all aspects, I can take the fight anywhere I want.”
Lopez is glad he’s been matched up against ranked opposition in his UFC run, and believes that with a win over Eduardo, he should enter the top-10 rankings at bantamweight.
“I think I take his spot,” Lopez said. “The last guy I beat was a top-15 guy that had just fought Renan Barao, so in my eyes that puts me at 10, so I think that people in the top 10, top five are all in the crosshairs after that.
“I’m not one of those guys who's just going to take a fight because people are hurt for money or whatever the case may be. Each guy I’ve fought has got me closer to where I ultimately want to be and it’s that strap. So I think I’d like another top-10 guy next and then maybe a top five guy, as long as it progresses me towards that title, I’m all in. Everything is going towards that title, that’s my sole purpose.”