Just winning is not enough for Livinha Souza. She wants to make fans jump out of their seats, and be excited to watch her perform in the cage. At UFC Sacramento, the former Invicta FC strawweight champion plans on compensating against Brianna Van Buren for her recent lackluster victory.
Souza last fought in February, defeating Sarah Frota via split decision at UFC Fortaleza in Brazil. Souza had a fractured hand and other small injuries going into the bout. To make things worse, her opponent came in eight pounds over the 115-pound limit. Yet, Souza won’t use any single one of those “excuses” to explain her performance.
“You were there and saw I was very upset after the fight,” Souza told MMA Fighting. “Personally, I treated that fight as a loss. It’s a win on my record, another win in the UFC, but I treated it as a loss. I lost to myself. I didn’t fight well. I was upset because I carry this weight of being part of the new generation so I always demand a lot from myself. I wanted to put on a show in Fortaleza or at least finish her, but it’s a lesson. I can’t let that happen again if I fight unprofessional athletes who miss weight. I went there and won, but I wasn’t satisfied.”
Souza was booked to return in April, taking on former UFC champion Carla Esparza, but a fractured foot forced her out of the card. Finally healthy and fit to compete, she was matched-up against Cynthia Calvillo, but this time Calvillo was the one to pull out with an injury.
The UFC called another former Invicta FC champion as a replacement for UFC Sacramento, signing Invicta FC tournament winner Van Buren to make her Octagon debut versus Souza at Golden 1 Center.
“We can never underestimate an opponent,” Souza said of Van Buren. “I wanted to fight Carla, she’s a pioneer, and I wanted to fight Cynthia because I love her style. They are two incredible athletes. But for many reasons we couldn’t fight, and now I’m fighting Brianna, who’s a tough girl who beat big names—except for ‘Ju Thai’ (Juliana Lima), who’s already retired and just pretends to be fighting.
“We have similar styles so it’s going to be a great fight for the fans. She has great cardio and good grappling, great takedowns—her takedowns are really cool. She moves well on the feet and doesn’t get hit very often, but I’ve watched her fights and have the recipe to defeat her.”
Souza won’t “reveal my secrets, my tricks”, she said, but “I’ll let my game flow as I always do.”
“I was very frustrated with my fight in Fortaleza because I don’t think I performed well,” Souza added. “I missed great opportunities. Other factors played against me that night, but that’s no excuse. I’ll let my game flow this time because I know that no girl can face me when I do that.”
Still bummed about her UFC Fortaleza win, the 115-pounder plans on compensating Saturday night in Sacramento. Souza wants UFC gold, money and legacy, but what she ultimately cares about is punching people in the face to delight the fans.
“I want to unleash my full potential,” Souza said. “All my strikes, my game, make things happen in the UFC. It’s time to move up the ladder so I can get to the top-10 this year, become a top-5 next year, and then go after the title. I’m not in the UFC just to compete, to be on social media, sell bikinis or panties, I’m here to beat girls up, build my life and leave a legacy. If I can become three percent of what Jose Aldo, Amanda Nunes and ‘Minotauro’ (Nogueira) are in the UFC, I’ll be remembered forever.”
With only one defeat in 14 professional bouts, a split decision to Angela Hill in 2016, Souza plans on fighting twice more this year under the UFC banner to start 2020 closer to her championship goal.
“This is the most competitive weight class in the UFC,” Souza said. “They are all talented fighters, no one is one-dimensional. It’s really hard to win fights at 115, but I see myself in the mix. I have to fight them and do what I do best. I’m sure I can beat any single one of them. I see a long road in the UFC, but I’ll get there.”