The COVID-19 pandemic that turned the world upside down wasn’t the only thing that prevented Antonio Arroyo from competing more in the UFC in 2020.
The Brazilian middleweight, who joined the company via Dana White’s Contender Series in 2019 but came up short in his promotional debut later that year, was initially set to take on Trevin Giles in February, but fell ill after the official weigh-ins in Houston.
His return was then scheduled for November versus Andreas Michailidis, but his opponent eventually withdrew. Eryk Anders stepped in on weeks’ notice, but ultimately missed weight and got hospitalized hours after the weigh-ins.
Arroyo will finally re-enter the octagon Saturday night in Las Vegas to face off against Deron Winn at the UFC APEX, and chooses looks back at the difficulties he’s dealt with this year as extra fuel.
“I had to hold tight so I wouldn’t lose focus,” Arroyo said in an interview with MMA Fighting. “It’s too easy to lose focus with all these distractions not only around the world, but the things that happened to me, like getting ill in February and then Eryk Anders getting ill and not fighting.
“You lose motivation if you don’t have have a good mind, but I’m so hungry to fight since the beginning of the year that I just stayed focused and motivated for my next fight. It was just a one-month camp, but it was a great one.”
Arroyo explained that his post-weigh-in issues in February were caused by a botched rehydration process, something he changed ahead of UFC Vegas 17.
“I didn’t rehydrate the best way possible and had cramps all over the body so I had to use an IV to rehydrate, and you can’t fight after using an IV,” he said. “The problem wasn’t the weight cut, it was the rehydration.
“I think I ended up using way too many supplements to rehydrate, and I only used natural things like fruits and coconut water this time, things that come from the nature instead of artificial stuff.”
Winn-Arroyo was agreed as a 195-pound catchweight bout since Arroyo took it on short notice as a replacement for jiu-jitsu specialist Antonio Braga Neto, and both fighters came in under the limit Friday.
The Brazilian talent went from facing Trevin Giles to Andreas Michailidis and then Eryk Anders and then Deron Winn in 2020, and says the “level of difficulty is pretty much the same, the only thing that changes is the fighting style.”
Arroyo believes “the only thing [Winn] has to offer is his wrestling, and I’m ready to stop his takedowns.”
“Eryk Anders strikes more and works on the clinch, but doesn’t go for takedowns,” he said. “Whereas Deron Winn is 100 percent takedowns, doesn’t strike that much, especially against guys that are faster than him, which is the case here, so I believe the difficulty is the same. The only thing that changed was the strategy.”
The 31-year-old predicts a second-round stoppage inside the octagon, something that will finally make him feel like he belongs in the UFC.
“I still have that loss stuck in my throat,” Arroyo said of his decision defeat to Andre Muniz in 2019. “That wasn’t me. I couldn’t do what I know, it wasn’t the Antonio Arroyo from the Contender Series. I’ve yet to show that fighter in the UFC. But this time my game will flow and I’ll finally be able to show the world who I am.”