Make no mistake about it: Glaico Franca’s goal in MMA is to get back in the Octagon.
“Nego” joined the fourth and final season of The Ultimate Fighter Brazil in 2015 and scored four submission victories to claim the lightweight title, but back-to-back decision defeats to James Vick and Gregor Gillespie, two of the best lightweights in the UFC today, were enough for the promotion to let him go.
The Astra Fight Team talent decided to move up to welterweight shortly after his last loss and went 4-0 with four stoppage victories on the Brazilian circuit before signing a deal with Japanese promotion Pancrase. A decision win over Hiroyuki Tetsuka in his debut in February granted him a shot at the vacant title against Takashi Sato at Saturday night’s event in Tokyo.
”I’m really happy because we work hard to become champion, and getting a shot at the belt in my second fight there shows that I had a good performance in my debut,” Franca told MMA Fighting. “I’ve made it really clear to Pancrase that my mid term goal is to go back to the UFC. Step by step, I’m not thinking about it before this fight. It’s the consequence, I have to win this fight and have a good performance to maybe go to the UFC after, but I’m also happy at Pancrase and happy to be fighting in Japan, which was always a goal in my career.”
The 170-pound belt is currently vacant because previous champion Daichi Abe went on to sign with the UFC weeks after his title win, and Franca hopes to go the same route.
”Pancrase is an excellent platform to get you to the UFC because they are partners, it airs on Fight Pass,” Franca said. “They know that’s what I want. I have to win first, but that’s my biggest wish. It’s also good for Pancrase because they would be sending a champion to the UFC.”
Franca is so confident that a title win in Japan could be enough to guarantee him another shot in the UFC that he’s accepting to get paid way less than he was making as a UFC fighter not that long ago. “Nego” got paid $17,000 in his loss to Vick at UFC 197, and said he received only $3,600 for his Pancrase win.
”Pancrase is a traditional promotion, but speaking of money, I don’t really care about it right now,” said Franca, who prefers to stay active and add wins to his record even if he’s not being well compensated for it. “I worry about my career, not the money I’m getting now. What I get in Pancrase is approximately 10 times less. Long term I do worry about it because it’s my job and we have to get paid, but I want to get in the UFC and have that financial return. (Money) is not a priority now, the priority is putting on a good performance and winning so I can go back to the place where I should never have left.”
The Brazilian talent believes he can do well in the UFC as a welterweight. Looking back at his career inside the Octagon, he wonders how he was able to cut down to 155 pounds so many times and perform that well during TUF Brazil.
”I took the Gillespie fight on short notice, but that was my option and I accepted the terms,” Franca said. “It was a close fight against Vick but not with Gillespie, he was more dominant. When I fought Vick there was that eye poke and I thought that was the problem, but only after I fought Gillespie I felt that that wasn’t my weight class. I thought I would have another opportunity in the UFC at 170, that I would perform better.
”I felt like a monster a month before my fights at 155, but would get worse slowly as time went by. My performance would drop dramatically and I would be miserable in the fight. I wasn’t doing half of I what I could. I felt way better after I moved up to 170.”
The only time “Nego” went the distance since moving up to welterweight was when he had to deal with a long travel to Japan for his Pancrase debut. This time, Franca changed plans and flew to Tokyo 15 days before his fight to adapt.
”Takashi Sato is a well-rounded athlete, but I see myself dominating the center of the cage and being ready for everything,” Franca said. “If he makes a mistake standing, I have the option to knock him out, and also finish him on the ground, but it will be a tough five-round fight and a lot can happen. We know the scenario can change in a second in MMA, so I have to be prepared for everything.”