Dhiego Lima will finally return to the Octagon after a long stretch of fights in 2016-17, and he has made the most of his time off.
Lima competed five times between Dec. 2016 and Aug. 2017, including a TUF 25 welterweight final against Jesse Taylor, for a total cage time of 47 minutes and 43 seconds. He finally had time to train with a gi, work on his wrestling and boxing, and “come back a new fighter.”
The two-time Ultimate Fighter finalist did zero sparring before he started his camp for his next fight, a welterweight clash with Yushin Okami at UFC on FOX 29, scheduled for April 14 in Glendale, and says that it helped him evolve as a martial artist since he wasn’t focusing on a specific opponent.
”This is the perfect time for a fight like this,” Lima told MMA Fighting. “He has a big name, tons of experience, but it’s the perfect time for me. He’s in this game for a long time.”
Okami re-signed with the UFC last September, taking a short-notice light heavyweight bout against Ovince Saint Preux, and lost in less than two minutes.
”In that OSP fight, you can see he in his face that didn’t want to be there,” Lima said. “He got in there knowing that he would lose, but it won’t be like that against me. I expect the best from him, but it’s a good fight for me.”
Lima is not a big fan of Okami entertainment-wise, but won’t deny that he’s effective in what he does to get the victory.
”He doesn’t do much to win,” Lima said. “He does the minimum effort to win, uses his experience, and I will use my youth and athleticism and not let him impose his slower pace. I’m confident that this fight will put me in the top 30 or 20 of the division.
”I’m pretty sure he will try to take me down and wrestle me, hold me down and not allow me to do much,” he continued. “He panics when he gets punched, so I will use that a lot. I’m happy with this fight. Whatever comes, I’m ready. I have a gameplan and I’m ready for everything.”
Lima’s loss to Taylor was his first UFC bout since 2015, when he also joined the promotion through the UFC’s reality show. In his first UFC run, Lima went 1-3 before getting released, and knows he has to get his hand raised this time.
”We can’t lose two in a row in the UFC, so it’s all or nothing in this fight,” said Lima, guaranteeing he won’t pay too much attention to extra pressure. “I’ve fought thinking about that before, this fear of being cut, so I don’t think about that anymore. I don’t care. The joy of being back to the Octagon, being in the gym every day and hearing my coaches say I’m evolving, that helps me in the fight.”
The Brazilian fighter knows he has to win, especially after being submitted by Taylor at the TUF 25 final last July, but the fact that his opponent failed a drug test for clomiphene less than two months after the bout pissed him off.
Months later, Lima has a different perspective of things.
”At first I thought like that, ‘this guy tests positive and they do nothing.’ I was really upset when that happened, criticized him, but I’m more mature now and I don’t think about it anymore,” Lima said. “He beat me, he fought better, his wrestling was better than mine.
”I’ve trained with this guy, lived with him for six months, and I know how hard he trained for that fight, so I won’t take that away from him. I know how hard he trained. He won. He was better than me, so let’s move on. That’s a loss in my record, and that’s it. He won that night and I have to live with that. If he used something or not, that’s his problem.”