The undefeated Brazilian flyweight was slated to face Benavidez on Jan. 26, before the promotion eventually decided to cancel UFC 233. Matchmakers tried to move the contest to the Jan. 19 card in Brooklyn, but it would be too soon for Figueiredo.
Benavidez went on to face — and defeat — Dustin Ortiz at UFC Brooklyn, making that two wins in a row for him, but Figueiredo told MMA Fighting he still feels they should meet in the Octagon one day.
”I owe Benavidez a fight, and I hope it happens,” said Figueiredo, who has been training at Team Alpha Male — Benavidez’s former team in California — for almost a year. “If we met in the gym we would slug it out. Nothing personal, but we would break each other in training [laughs].”
“God of War” feels like an improved fighter since joining the camp prior to his knockout victory over John Moraga in August, giving credit to jiu-jitsu coach Fabio Prado and Alpha Male leader Urijah Faber. Feeling “part of the family” in the gym, Figueiredo explains the main difference in his game since moving to California.
”I disappointed in my second UFC fight because my opponent was a wrestler and he kept taking me down,” Figueiredo said, citing his decision win over Jarred Brooks. At the time, the Brazilian thought he had lost the bout.
”I wanted to finish him and went for a guillotine instead of defending the takedown, and being here helped me improve my game a lot. I have added more weapons to my game now.”
Figueiredo believes he has learned to balance aggressiveness with the perfect strategy to win fights, and vows to use that at Saturday night’s UFC Nashville, when he faces top-ranked flyweight Jussier Formiga.
“Most of the Brazilians don’t like to fight each other, they would rather fight ‘gringos’, but it’s narrowing down now,” Figueiredo said. “I’m among the five best of the division and my goal is to fight for the belt, so there’s no other option except eliminating the heads that get on my way. For someone who’s hungry and has a goal to achieve, this is a great opportunity. I’m going there to knock him out.
”I have a jiu-jiu-jitsu background, but I use it more for defense because my fighting style is aggressive, to knock people out. If he tries to take me down, I’ll stop him with my ground and pound. If he stands in front of me, I’ll knock him out. I don’t see this fight going past the second round.”
Figueiredo believes he should “definitely” earn a shot at the UFC flyweight championship if he improves to 16-0 on Saturday, and he plans to leave no doubts by knocking out the jiu-jitsu specialist.
Also, he hopes that a KO convinces UFC president Dana White to keep the flyweight division going, even though he plans on moving up to bantamweight in the future as well.
”I’m undefeated and my fights always end by knockout, so I deserve a chance to fight for the belt,” Figueiredo said. “People say that they will end the division, but my goal is to make it stay. My goal is to show Dana White that this weight class has the potential to stay in the UFC and put on a show on my fights. I don’t want this division to go away until I get that belt.”
”My goal is to win the title at 125 and then move up to 135,” he added. “That’s my goal, so I hope they don’t close the division before I get that belt.”