Undefeated lightweight prospect Mauricio Ruffy had an unusual road before becoming a full-time MMA fighter. Three years after his debut, he aims to catch the attention of UFC brass as he enters the cage Saturday looking to improve on his flawless record.
Ruffy—who claims to already have a 6-0 record, but MMA database sites are missing one of his wins—has knocked out every single opponent he’s faced so far. The 23-year-old talent faces Manoel Souza at SFT 18 in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and he hopes that a win means a ticket to the Octagon.
“People think I’m cocky… I disagree. I’m confident,” Ruffy told MMA Fighting. “If I don’t trust myself, who will? I’ve envisioned all this before. I’ve seen myself in the UFC, becoming UFC champion... I know it takes a lot of hard work, but I see myself fighting and knocking out the best there.”
When he decided to move from Muay Thai to MMA at age 18, Ruffy says he predicted to sign with the UFC when he was 24. He celebrates his next birthday on June 17, and feels “ready to put on a show and earn my spot in the UFC.
“My uncle was a kickboxing teacher and my brother trained with him, and I’ve always loved playing around in the gym since I was around eight or nine,” Ruffy said. “My parents thought I would change my mind when I grew older and give up on the idea of fighting professionally, but it only made me hungrier.”
His first experience in the ring wasn’t as good as he expected, losing a pair of Muay Thai bouts—“They were really controversial,” he said—but Ruffy bounced back to beat his next 38 opponents in Muay Thai before entering an MMA cage for the first time at age 20.
Ruffy had a good life in Maceio, 1,500 miles away from Sao Paulo, but left it all behind to share a small place with his brother in Brazil’s biggest city. They were living in tough conditions—“I slept on a thin mattress on the floor and water came in every time it rained, so I had to sleep on a chair occasionally,” he said—but would do anything for his dream.
His life finally started to change when his longtime friend Flavio Alvaro, an old school vale tudo veteran in Brazil, introduced him to a Chinese millionaire who was looking to invest in the careers of Brazilian fighters.
Ruffy, who had never flown on an airplane before, flew countless hours between Sao Paulo and Taiwan for his new gig. He couldn’t speak English, so trying to understanding what everyone was saying in Chinese was mind-boggling.
“I was his bodyguard and would go to a bunch of gyms there to train,” Ruffy said. “He paid us good money and invested in our careers, but I couldn’t wait to get back to Brazil. It was really tough not actually engaging in any conversation for three months. I’ve learned a lot there, though. In general, it was a great experience.”
After living and working for two months in Taiwan, a couple of weeks in Hong Kong and another month in Spain, Ruffy flew back home to finally be a full-time mixed martial artist again.
On Saturday night, his first time in action since capturing a 165-pound belt in Sao Paulo, the undefeated lightweight prospect aims to score another knockout finish.
“Everything I went through helped me become more patient in my fights and made me the fighter I am,” Ruffy said. “I have no rush to end my fights. I know the right time will come.”