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Jussier Formiga: UFC might try to build up Ben Nguyen, but he’s fighting the ‘wrong guy’ at UFC 221

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Jussier Formiga (GC)
Jussier Formiga plans on derailing Ben Nguyen's hype train at UFC 221.
Guilherme Cruz, MMA Fighting

Jussier Formiga is looking to put on another win streak going in the UFC, and has to get by promising flyweight Ben Nguyen at UFC 221.

The Brazilian veteran is currently ranked at No. 4 in the company’s official rankings, and is excited to take on “Ben 10” at Saturday’s pay-per-view event in Perth, Australia, to move another step closer to his long-awaited shot at the 125-pound championship.

”It’s a great opponent. Thank God the UFC believes in me and always matches me up against good opponents so I can show my work in the UFC,” Formiga told MMA Fighting. “He’s great, is coming off two wins and has a big name in Oceania, and a win will definitely put me closer to the title. That excites me. My goal is to fight for the belt, but my goal right now is to beat Ben Nguyen.”

It was a long, long trip for Formiga to get to Perth for Saturday’s fight, but it’s not like he’s not used to it. His most recent win in the Octagon was a first-round submission over Yuta Sasaki in his home country of Japan in September, so competing in Australia “is just another challenge.”

Nguyen, who fights out of Australia, scored all of his four Octagon victories in UFC events in Australia or New Zealand, and the Brazilian has an interesting take on that.

”He only fights in his comfort zone,” Formiga said of his opponent. “He’s very popular in Oceania, and the UFC sees him as a potential star, just like they see (Robert) Whittaker. I think the UFC invests a lot in him, always books him on local cards. When he went to America to fight he lost to (Louis) Smolka, so maybe he doesn’t adapt well out of his comfort zone.

”I’ve fought in Japan, Mexico, all around the world, so that’s not a problem for me. It’s a positive factor, actually, because I can show to the UFC that I’m here to take down the contenders.”

Formiga believes that the UFC is trying to build up Nguyen as a future star in the flyweight division. If that’s the case, the matchmakers “put him against the wrong guy in the wrong time.”

”He’s a pretty well-rounded fighter, mixes it up well,” Formiga said. “I try to look at his fights that went longer than the one against (Tim) Elliot, to see what he does in three rounds. He’s a good contender, has a good name, but I’m here to fight and he won’t take that away from me.

”We always finds openings, no one fights perfectly in a three-rounds fight. Not even the champion. He fights everywhere, jiu-jitsu and standing, but everyone has flaws. No one is 100 percent all the time. My job is to go there and beat him.”

Two months shy of his 33th birthday, Formiga had a different training camp this time around. Used to traveling to Rio de Janeiro to train at Nova Uniao, the Kimura representative was forced to switch things up after Nova Uniao and Kimura ended their 20-year partnership in 2017.

”We used to train at Nova Uniao in Rio, where we had a lot of great lightweight sparring partners,” he said, “but unfortunately the teams are no longer partners and I chose to do my camp on a different team. My original idea was to go to Arizona, at Power, but (Kimura leader and Power MMA coach) Jair Lourenco had to go to Brazil in December.”

Pretty much homeless ahead of UFC 221, Formiga spoke with his longtime friend and training partner Renan Barao, who is currently training at American Top Team, and decided to make the move.

”I spoke with (Renan) Barao and he explained about the training here at ATT, so I came,” said Formiga, who trained with Barao, Pedro Munhoz, Adriano Moraes and several others in Florida. “The weather is pretty similar to Natal’s, the food is good [laughs], and the structure of the gym is awesome.”