Marcel Fortuna wanted to become a UFC fighter, and his first opportunity inside the Octagon was better than everything he had ever dreamed.
Winning five in a row in the regional circuit between 2012 and 2015 earned the Brazilian light heavyweight a spot on the 23rd season of The Ultimate Fighter, but he came up short on the reality show. After that moment, he decided to take some time off.
"I stopped thinking about my fight career after I left the show,” Fortuna told MMA Fighting. "I had a few changes in my personal life, I moved to a different state and my son was just born, so I had to take some time off. I focused on my life for a year.”
Fortuna finally considered coming back earlier this year, and just a few weeks after signing with a new manager, Lucas Lutkus, he became a UFC fighter.
The 31-year-old fighter moved up to the heavyweight division to take on Anthony Hamilton on short notice at UFC Fight Night 104 in February, and it only lasted a round.
"My strategy was to fight smart,” said Fortuna, who scored the first knockout of his career. "Since he was bigger than me and I was faster, I wanted to get him tired a little so I could use my ground game later in the fight, but he was hunting me down and my hand landed. I saw that he felt my hand, so I thought ‘you know what, I’ll go with the hands anyway’. It was really surprising."
Fortuna, who weighed in at 210 pounds for the heavyweight bout — 48 pounds lighter than his opponent a day after the bout — didn’t need to think twice about moving back to his original division after such an impressive debut.
"I guess they needed someone to step up and I took it,” he said. "I thought about it, I was a little worried because the guy is bigger and heavier, but I went for it. Now, I return to the light heavyweight division with more confidence because I’ve worked in my striking for a long time. The only difference is the weight, actually."
Back in the Octagon at The Ultimate Fighter 25 Finale card in Las Vegas on Friday night, facing 7-0 light heavyweight Jordan Johnson, Fortuna believes other fighters will show him more respect from now on.
"He has these two aspects to consider now,” the Brazilian said. "I used my jiu-jitsu to win pretty much every fight, but now they have to take my hands in consideration. He might change his game plan a little after my last knockout, maybe he goes for more takedowns. I’ll pay attention because he might try to play it safe.
"I’m going there to use my hands again and go for the knockout. If that works, wonderful. If not, I’ll use my jiu-jitsu. If he takes me down, I’m at home."