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Dhiego Lima vows to perform better without job on the line at UFC Fort Lauderdale

Dhiego Lima stopped Chad Laprise in the first round at Canada's UFC 231 in December.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Dhiego Lima’s career in the UFC is a very unique one.

The younger brother of former Bellator welterweight champion Douglas Lima, Dhiego first joined the company in 2014. After getting past three opponents on the 19th season of The Ultimate Fighter, Lima met Eddie Gordon in the middleweight final, but lost in just 71 seconds. With just one win in his next three UFC appearances, he was let go by the promotion.

It didn’t take long before Lima captured the Titan FC welterweight title and was once again called by the UFC to be part of another season of The Ultimate Fighter in 2017, TUF Redemption, where former contestants got a second chance on the reality show.

Once again, the Brazilian made it to the final by defeating three welterweights in a row, but once again, he came up short, losing to Jesse Taylor for the season crown. His next bout, a decision loss to Yushin Okami, appeared to put an end to another run as a UFC fighter.

But as luck would have it, the promotion decided to give Lima one last chance, booking him against Chad Laprise in Canada. This time, in his seventh appearance in the Octagon — or his 13th, if you consider TUF bouts — Lima literally let his hands go and saved his job with an incredible first-round knockout.

The Goiania native, based in Atlanta for years now, is now set to face longtime UFC veteran and TUF 11 winner Court McGee at UFC Fort Lauderdale on Saturday night, and admits that his knockout victory in December changed the way he handles everything.

”It’s way better now, I feel way more relieved,” Lima told MMA Fighting. “Going into a fight knowing that you might not have a job after is too difficult. You try to focus only on the fight, but, in the end, that’s inside your head, you’ll remember it. ‘If I lose, I’m gone.’ I don’t have that weight over my shoulders anymore. Wow, it’s wonderful. I’ll fight even better now. That pressure is annoying, but this time I’m pure joy.”

At UFC Fort Lauderdale, Lima vows to let his performance reflect that attitude shift.

”I’ll open myself more,” Lima said. “I feel at home now. I felt really comfortable in that fight. I was kind of nervous in the beginning, but then I let myself loose. I’m way more comfortable now. It will be my eighth fight in the UFC… It took a while [laughs], but I’m finally at home. I can say I’m at home when I step in there. No pressure at all.

”You’ll finally be able to see my entire game now. I’ve always said that I’d give everyone some trouble if I fought the way I trained in the gym, and it’s time to show that. I’ll show what I do in the gym, and it will be wonderful.

”I haven’t showed anything in the UFC yet. I haven’t done anything yet,” he continued. “Against Okami, against Jesse Taylor, I wasn’t able to show anything. Even in my last fight, that knockout, I was letting it go. I don’t even know how to explain, man. You’ll see.

”Talking and not backing it up means nothing. I’ll show the real Dhiego in this fight. You’ll watch and think, ‘Damn, this guy has championship potential.’”

Lima signed a six-fight deal with the UFC after competing on TUF 25, and hopes to sit down with his manager Alex Davis and UFC president Dana White and sign a better deal after securing a win in Florida.

A win that will come by stoppage, he says.

”It can definitely be a three-round war, that guy can take it, but I see myself finishing him,” Lima said. “He’s tough, he comes forward, but he leaves himself open. All of his fights are bloody wars, he’s always getting cut and getting knocked down, even when he wins. He’s always beaten up, win or lose, but you have to hit him the right way.

”Many people freak out with his pressure and don’t hit him the right way. Santiago (Ponzinibbio) did it, and I prepared really well to do it. I won’t waste any strikes. Everything I hit him with, it will be to put him away.”

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