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Antonio Arroyo trained for four different opponents for UFC Sao Paulo debut

UFC Fight Night Blachowicz v Jacare: Ultimate Media Day
Antonio Arroyo (left) meets Andre Muniz in the main card of UFC Sao Paulo.
Alexandre Schneider/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

SAO PAULO — Antonio Arroyo had a roller coaster of emotions ahead of his UFC debut in Sao Paulo.

Arroyo takes on fellow two-time Contender Series vet Andre Muniz on the main card of Saturday’s event, but he had three opponents fall out before finally being matched-up with “Sergipano.”

Arroyo originally was booked against Kevin Holland, but the company pulled him from that card to face Brendan Allen this past month in Boston. Then Arroyo started training for Trevin Giles, but it wasn’t until days later that he was informed Giles hadn’t actually agreed to the fight; Alessio Di Chirico, the third name thrown at him, eventually pulled out with a left shoulder injury.

Despite the ups and downs, Arroyo remains positive.

“That doesn’t affect me at all,” Arroyo told MMA Fighting. “The UFC usually wants us to fight ‘gringos’ in Brazil, (and) they try to make it a Brazil vs. The World type of event. But we had setbacks along the way. No problem, though. It’s going to be a cool fight to determine who’s the best Brazilian middleweight to come out of the Contender Series.”

“Muniz is a black belt in jiu-jitsu,” he added. “So I have to be ready in the grappling area to defend the takedowns and stay on the feet, where I can use my striking.”

Arroyo and Muniz weren’t signed after scoring decision victories against Diego Henrique and Bruno Assis, respectively, in August 2018. But both inked deals following submission finishes over Stephen Regman and Taylor Johnson, respectively, in the third quarter of 2019.

Arroyo, who turned 30 two weeks before his most recent fight, wasn’t discouraged when his first win didn’t translate into an exclusive contract.

“I knew that I did a good job the first time and other opportunities would come,” Arroyo said. “They called me again, so they liked what I did, even though they didn’t sign me. I felt relieved when I found out about the second shot in the Contender. I was praying for another chance, I was focused, and I invested everything I had in a training camp at Jackson’s MMA. I spent two months there and invested some good dollars to stay there.

“I knew I would win, but I wasn’t so sure that they would give me a contract because I know that impressing Dana White is no easy task. I kept my mind open for other promotions if the contract didn’t come the second time. But when I sat at that chair and (White) started saying he couldn’t say ‘no’ to me again, it was pure joy.”

For his fight in Brazil, Arroyo went back to Belem’s Marajó Brothers team to prepare for a three-round clash with Muniz. He believes the win gives him the honorary title of “best Brazilian middleweight at the Contender Series.” But he dreams of real titles in the future.

“It’s a long road,” Arroyo said. “I believe I have what it takes to be in the top-15 of this division in a year. Three or four good fights and I’m there. When I enter the ranking, that’s what I’ll start thinking about the top.”

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