It took six straight wins, three “Fight of the Night” bonuses, and a few spectacular knockouts for Elizeu Zaleski to finally earn a main-card spot in the UFC. Now he vows to keep the streak alive at UFC Wichita.
The exciting striker is slated to face rising welterweight prospect Curtis Millender in the co-main event of Saturday’s UFC Fight Night show in Wichita, Kansas, and Zaleski promises that it will be “wonderful to brawl again.” Coming off an almost-perfect year in 2018, in which he scored highlight-reel finishes over Sean Strickland and Luigi Vendramini, “Capoeira” is predicting another fight of the night contest.
“(Millender) likes to stay on the feet as well, to strike,” Zaleski told MMA Fighting, “and I obviously work in all areas MMA has to offer, but I love to strike. This fight has everything to be an excellent one and, if everything goes according to the plan, get us another bonus.”
Despite what his history suggests, Zaleski knows that winning is more important than putting on a show — but he also just can’t run away from his instincts of performing in exciting fashion.
“That’s what I work for, to give my best in there and come out victorious, and it will be no different this time,” Zaleski said. “I worked hard in all areas to make the fight go my way and have a good year again. I had many injuries last year, unfortunately, but my fights were impressive, so I expect a wonderful year again. It will be even better than 2018.”
Zaleski, currently the No. 14-ranked contender in the UFC’s welterweight division, was slated to meet unranked Li Jingliang last November, but was ultimately forced off the card in China after suffering an injury. Millender is also an unranked fighter, but the Brazilian sees his new opponent as a bigger opportunity given the hype surrounding Millender following his trio of impressive UFC wins over Thiago Alves, Max Griffin, and Siyar Bahadurzada.
“Curtis Millender is coming off good performances in the UFC — and also before signing with the UFC. [He] has only fought big names in the division, so that adds a lot to this fight,” Zaleski said. “It’s like I’m fighting the best in the world. I’m ready. I believe I’ll move up in the rankings with this win and get more eyeballs on me, more than if I had fought the Chinese fighter in November.”
Millender is a tough welterweight, having never been knocked out in 20 professional appearances. Of his three defeats, two came by submission back when he was a Bellator fighter early in his career in 2015.
Zaleski, on the other hand, is known for his knockout power, but he won’t shy away from taking Millender to the mat if it represents the easiest path to victory.
“I’m an MMA fighter and will take the fight to where I feel comfortable,” said Zaleski, who has finished two of his 20 wins with chokes. “If I feel that a submission might be the fastest way to get the win, why not try? I still don’t have a submission win in the UFC, but I’m an MMA fighter and anything can happen. I want to do what I’ve trained and see what happens. I want to be happy and put on another beautiful fight, that’s what matters to me.”
Zaleski called for a matchup with former champion Robbie Lawler after his most recent Octagon win, but was assigned Jingliang and Millender instead. Now he’s done with calling people out.
Simply put, after he keeps his streak alive at UFC Wichita, the Brazilian welterweight is daring any top-10 fighter to accept to fight him next.
“I think any top 10 there is a good fight, no matter who that is,” Zaleski said. “I’m focused on this fight and then we’ll see. Any top 10 who is willing to fight me, I’m down to do it. Let’s brawl. Unfortunately, I mention names and they don’t make the fights, so maybe someone wants to fight me. I’m waiting.”
UFC Wichita takes place at the Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita, Kansas, and airs live on ESPN+.