Jussier Formiga and Henry Cejudo met in a title eliminator bout in 2015, when both had three straight wins in the UFC, and Cejudo won via split decision, earning a shot at Demetrious Johnson for the belt.
“The Messenger” would only capture the flyweight gold two years later, avenging a first-round knockout defeat with a decision victory at UFC 227. Once again riding a three-fight winning streak, Formiga hopes that a UFC Nashville victory over Deiveson Figueiredo finally earns him his long-awaited shot at the UFC championship.
”A lot has changed since we fought, not only with my fighting style but also his,” Formiga told MMA Fighting. “He had his path, maybe an easier path to get to the title. He fought Demetrious after defeating me and ended up losing, but followed an easier path to get to the title while I had a tougher path, but always being in the top 5.”
After losing to Cejudo in 2015, Formiga defeated Dustin Ortiz, lost to Ray Borg, and went on to beat Ulka Sasaki, Ben Nguyen and Sergio Pettis. Cejudo, on the other hand, lost to “Mighty Mouse” and Joseph Benavidez before scoring wins over Wilson Reis and Pettis and once again challenging Johnson.
”Despite that split decision we had, I really want to fight Cejudo — and I will prove that to the UFC,” Formiga said. “You can be sure it’s going to be a great war and I won’t let it go the distance. It’s either a knockout or a submission.”
Formiga was really hoping to challenge Cejudo following his win over Pettis in October, but the company chose to book the flyweight kingpin against then-bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw instead. With Dillashaw out of the picture after testing positive in his post-fight drug test, Formiga eyes a flyweight title bout after meeting Figueiredo.
”We don’t understand the UFC sometimes,” Formiga said. “Honestly, I’m in the UFC for seven years but don’t understand how their plans work, who they want fighting for the title. I’m coming off three wins and just beat a guy that was No. 2 of the division. Sergio Pettis was in the mix for a title shot and I defeated him, but they still didn’t give me a shot. They offered me another fight, I’m an employee and I will fight and make some money. I want to fight for the title. That’s the thing.”
It took a while, but Formiga understood that winning is not always enough in today’s UFC.
”You look at the UFC ranking and it’s made by journalists, and those people want entertainment,” Formiga said. “It can’t be a boring fight, so I’m putting on the best performances of my life.”
”That’s the UFC, sometimes you win and they don’t care, so you have to win convincingly,” he continued. “My last three fights, I’ve been focusing on that. Despite the fact that people booed my third round against Sergio Pettis, I won all rounds without any question, and submitted Sasaki in Japan and Ben in Australia. I’m focusing on having great performances and letting my game go more.”
Looking to make four in a row at UFC Nashville, which would be his longest winning streak since joining the UFC, Formiga promises a dominant performance against an unbeaten Brazilian.
”Deiveson is 15-0 and has four wins in the UFC. Even though he hasn’t fought ranked guys, he’s still undefeated,” Formiga said. “Beating Deiveson, there’s nothing else they can do [except give me a title shot], but my focus now is winning the fight Saturday. I’ll focus on the fight and think about that later.”
”Deiveson is the typical Brazilian, someone who never gives up,” he continued. “Maybe he’s not that good technically speaking, but he moves forward, hits hard, and is a warrior. I expect a tough fight Saturday, a war, and make sure I have my hands raised in the end.”
It’s the classic striker versus grappler collision, Formiga says, and “anything can happen” when the Octagon door closes.
”Sometimes people underestimate me because I’m a grappler, but I can surprise him on the feet or on the ground,” Formiga said. “He’s a black belt in jiu-jitsu but I have yet to see his ground game in the UFC.
”I’m always the ‘grappler’ in my fights, I will never be the ‘striker’ [laughs], but I’m ready to surprise everyone on the feet. I’ve proven that. I almost knocked out Ben Nguyen in Australia. I have weapons, I’ve evolved a lot training with my coaches at American Top Team, and I trust my stand-up game.”