clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

With new gym as part of retirement plan, Thales Leites ignores pressure before next UFC fight

Thales Leites aims a late-March, early-April return to action.
Guilherme Cruz, MMA Fighting

NITEROI, Brazil — Thales Leites is getting close to retiring from mixed martial arts, and he’s already working on his next endeavors.

The former UFC middleweight title contender has been fighting professionally since 2003, entering the Octagon 20 times in two runs as a UFC fighter, and recently opened his gym in his hometown of Niteroi, Brazil.

”It’s different. I like it,” Leites said of life as a gym owner. “We have a Nova Uniao training center in Niteroi now, with my own students, something I never had before. I taught jiu-jitsu in Hawaii for six months before in 2004, but it wasn’t my team. I have my students now, I have a place to train close to home. I’ve always wanted to bring Nova Uniao to Niteroi, so now I don’t depend on going to Rio de Janeiro all the time to train.”

The training center also includes muay thai classes with Emerson Falcao, Jose Aldo’s striking coach, and other martial arts training, since its opening in August 2017.

Opening your own business during a crisis that Brazil is going through for the last few years is not as an easy task. In fact, it might be as tough as being a professional fighter.

”That’s a really tough question. I honestly don’t know which one is tougher,” Leites said. “They are both insane, you really need to want it.”

Leites will turn 37 in June, and says that the new gym in Icarai, Niteroi, is part of his retirement plans.

”For sure, no doubt about it,” he said. “That’s something I love doing, that’s the legacy I want to leave. I want to teach what I know, so people can live that as well. If you keep knowledge for yourself, it means nothing. It’s only worth it if you share it.”

The longtime veteran already has a date in mind for the end of his journey as a MMA fighter.

”I think about fighting while God gives me health,” Leites said, “but I think about fighting until I’m 39, so if I fight two, two and half years more, I’ll be satisfied.”

Leites fought for the last time in October, losing to Brad Tavares via unanimous decision at UFC 216. Opening his own gym two months before a fight wasn’t a distraction and didn’t affect him at all, he says. In fact, Leites explains that it wasn’t a drastic change compared to his previous training camps.

”I still train in Rio, but not as much as I used to before,” he said. “I always did my conditioning training, muay thai and jiu-jitsu training in Niteroi, and went to Rio for boxing, wrestling and sparring. I’m not going to Rio that often anymore, so it hasn’t changed much before my last fight.”

On a 2-4 run since July 2015, a big drop compared to his five-fight winning streak since returning to the company in 2013, Leites targets late-March or early-April as an ideal time frame for his next fight, and won’t worry about extra pressure on his shoulders.

”Every athlete has pressure, especially in the UFC, but I don’t pay too much attention to it,” Leites said. “When I was coming off two losses and fought Chris Camozzi, I didn’t pay worry about it and had an excellent performance. The thing is, work hard and believe it. It’s like Mad Max, two men get in and only one gets out. One man will win and one man will lose, and you have to know how to deal with that.

”We analyze the fight and change what wasn’t good. We make sure to watch the mistakes we’ve made, but every opponent is different. Sometimes you made a mistake because your opponent forced that, so you have to analyze that as well. The secret is to continue working to evolve as a fighter.”

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the MMA Fighting Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your fighting news from MMA Fighting