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Ilir Latifi believes heavyweight move is permanent after weight cuts ‘took a toll’ on his body

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Ilir Latifi won’t be the biggest heavyweight when he makes his debut in the division this weekend at UFC 247 but at least he’ll be healthy and happy for once in his career.

According to the former 205-pound contender, the decision to change weight classes really came down to a question of health and long term viability in the sport.

“I just think lately my last few weight cuts in the 205-pound division were very hard,” Latifi told MMA Fighting. “I was getting down as before. I wasn’t recovering after the weight cuts as I used to. I just thought let’s take a shot. If you’re not performing as you should because of the weight cuts and you’re not feeling good, I just wanted to see the possibility of fighting in the heavyweight division with the big guys.

“Because weight cutting all the time takes a toll on the body. With time and after a lot of weight cuts, I think it took a toll on the body.”

Perhaps for the first time in his career, Latifi isn’t focused on his weight in the days leading up to the fight and it’s transformed him into a different person.

As he prepared during his camp at American Top Team in Florida to face ex-title challenger Derrick Lewis, the 36-year-old Swedish “Sledgehammer” noticed a major difference in his energy and exuberance during training sessions.

“Healthier and happier,” Latifi said when describing his mood. “Your body feels better. I was constantly weak during camps during the weight cuts because my body was under nourished.”

As far as his actual weight right now, Latifi is happy to report he doesn’t know.

“I haven’t been on the scale so I would only lie,” Latifi said with a laugh. “I have no idea right now actually.”

With so much history at light heavyweight, Latifi follows the “never say never” philosophy when it comes to a potential return to the division but in his mind, he’s done fighting at 205 pounds.

“I see myself as a heavyweight now,” Latifi said. “I’m going to fight for a while hopefully so let’s see what the future brings if I’ll go down in a couple of fights.

“But I don’t see myself fighting at 205 no more. I feel good at this weight so let’s take it from there.”

When it comes to his first heavyweight opportunity this weekend against a top 10 ranked opponent like Lewis, Latifi couldn’t be anything other than thankful.

He just wants to take full advantage by jumping into the deep end of the division on his first day where a win would surely jumpstart his title shot aspirations.

“I just thought it was an amazing opportunity,” Latifi said. “I’m getting a shot at fighting one of the top five of the heavyweight division. It’s something that has always been in my nature. I love challenges. I love fighting the best. When the opportunity came, I was ready.”