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Cezar Ferreira returns to the arena where his life changed for UFC 224

Cezar Ferreira vs Thiago Santos (EL)
Cezar Ferreira returns to the arena where he submitted Thiago Santos (photo).
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Fighting at UFC 224 will be special for Cezar Ferreira.

Back in 2011, “Mutante” was trying to turn his MMA career around with fights in the United States. He barely had any money to invest in his career, but would get loans in a bank to pay for his travel expenses to compete overseas. In 2012, his life changed forever.

”My life was upside down when I had this opportunity on The Ultimate Fighter Brazil,” Ferreira told MMA Fighting. “I just had my daughter, was going to the United States to evolve as a fighter, had no sponsors, nothing, and what I got paid in fights wasn’t enough to pay the flights and training. I met one of the UFC matchmakers but lost the fight, and I thought, ‘I just lost the biggest chance to enter the UFC.’”

“Mutante” was more than $50,000 dollars in debt when he found out he was close to getting a chance to be on the UFC’s reality show. There was no guarantee he would actually be in the show, as he was one of the 64 pre-selected fighters, but he started training for it.

“I had no idea if I would be in it,” Ferreira said. “They told me to start my training camp not knowing if I would even fight. I went to the bank and got another loan and went to the United States to train. They called me saying I would fight in two weeks and had to make 185 pounds on this date.”

Ferreira faced Gustavo Sampaio in the preliminary bout on Jan. 15, 2012, a day after UFC 142 in Rio de Janeiro, and won via submission with a second-round guillotine choke.

“Mutante” was one of the contestants in the first edition of the reality show in Brazil, but many people felt he didn’t deserve to be there.

”I believed in myself. I believed so much that I would enter the reality show and win,” Ferreira said. “I was criticized because I was close to Vitor (Belfort, one of the TUF Brazil 1 coaches), but I got in there and did a good job. I was rewatching our TUF [season recently]. I won all the bonuses, fastest wins, best knockout, won a truck, so I proved to everyone I deserved to be there.”

All the money “Mutante” made with the reality show, defeating Sergio Moraes in the middleweight final at UFC 147, was enough to pay his debts. Now, six years later, on May 12, Ferreira returns to the same arena where he fought the TUF Brazil 1 preliminary bout to take on Karl Roberson at UFC 224.

”It’s an awesome opportunity to fight in Rio, where my story in the UFC started,” Ferreira said. “I’m happy to be fighting in such a big card like this. I have good memories. Even before the UFC called me to offer this fight, I had already asked for a spot on this card.”

Coming off a win over Nate Marquardt in November, Ferreira is happy with the match-up, even though his opponent has only fought once under the UFC banner.

”He’s a good prospect, has a great kickboxing background and is undefeated in MMA,” Ferreira said of the 6-0 Roberson. “He’s a knockout artist. That motivated me a lot for this fight. I trained hard to fight smart and add another win to my record and continue to climb the middleweight rankings and get to the top and one day win the belt.

”He’s tough and had good striking skills, but I’m more experienced, a well-rounded MMA fighter,” he continued. “I can fight anywhere, so I have more options to build a better strategy to stop his game. I will put on a intelligent show. I’m more than entertainment, I’m a real athlete, and I will show it in there.

Jack Hermansson was also a knockout artist on a nine-fight winning streak when I stopped him. I see myself in a great time of my career and I’m still not in my prime.”

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