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UFC’s Wellington Turman vows to show he’s a real ‘Prodigy’

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MMA: UFC Fight Night-Sao Paolo: Perez vs Turman
Wellington Turman improved to 1-1 in the UFC with a win over Markus Perez in November.
Jason Da Silva-USA TODAY Sports

Brazilian middleweight prospect Wellington Turman celebrated his first UFC victory with a decision over Markus Perez in November, and promises a very different show when he faces Andrew Sanchez at Saturday’s UFC Vegas 6.

Turman feels he should be 2-0 inside the octagon after dropping a split decision to Karl Roberson in his first appearance under the bright lights of the UFC in July 2019, but only one judge agreed with him. More experienced and confident this time around, Turman expects to move up to another level in the sport with a win over a The Ultimate Fighter winner.

“He’s a tough fighter who has had a lot of fights in the UFC, a well-known name, but I’ve never had an easy life in the UFC,” Turman said in an interview with MMA Fighting. “I think this is a fight that can take me to the top 15. I see myself going up in the rankings after this. With a good win, beating him in the first or second round, that’s gonna be excellent. The UFC will look at me with other eyes after this.”

UFC Vegas 6 goes down the night before the sixth anniversary of Turman’s mixed martial arts debut, when the young prospect choked out Diego Pedroso in Curitiba, Brazil. Going from his first official bout to the elite of the 185-pound weight class in such short time would prove he deserves the nickname of “The Prodigy.”

“I know it will happen. You can write it down,” Turman said. “I started really young, I was already making my professional debut when I was 18, but I’ve already seen this in my future. I’ve always had a good head, I was never the type of guy that goes to parties, I was always training and dedicating myself. I got in the UFC on the right time. I’ve had a lot of time to prepare… Not that I had much time, some people take longer, but I’m feeling ready and happy to be here. It’s like I’m living a dream, being in Las Vegas for the first time.”

Turman’s rise coincides with teammate Augusto Sakai’s success in the octagon, too. The heavyweight up-and-comer is slated to headline a UFC Fight Night show opposite MMA legend Alistair Overeem on Sept. 5 after racking up four straight octagon victories, and also served as Turman’s main sparring partner for Sanchez.

“I always say he’s one of my biggest challenges,” Turman said of Sakai. “If I can take Sakai down, I can take anyone in the division down. I have known Sakai since his Bellator days, we always said we would be fighting the best in the UFC one day but no one believed in us except for our master (Gile Ribeiro), our team, and ourselves. It’s incredible to see this happening for us now. I’m thrilled. I know how much we deserved this blessing.”

The close decision loss to Robertson in his UFC debut forced Turman to change his style and be more methodical in his next outing, he said. With a UFC win now under his belt, the 24-year-old middleweight feels he can finally let things go.

“You will see a new Turman every time I step in there,” he said. “Letting the game flow with intelligence, right? Sanchez lays and prays, he likes to play against the cage. He’s a lion when he’s attacking, but starts to run when he starts to get beat up. I’ve watched his fights, we’ve studied many strategies. I’ll follow the strategy, but I’ll put more pressure this time.

“I can finish this fight in the first round. A short fight, a quick fight, by submission or knockout.”

Sanchez became the TUF 23 light heavyweight winner after dispatching the likes of Eric Spicely and Khalil Rountree, but lost to longtime veteran Anthony Smith and rising prospects like Marvin Vettori later on.

For Turman, however, this matchup is a stylistic nightmare for “El Dirte.”

“He likes to do what I like to do, so he will regret trying to grab me,” Turman said. “I will take him down. Many people were too scared to take him down because he’s an All-American wrestler, but I train really hard and I’m strong. I want to take him down and put him on his back, something I haven’t seen anyone trying before. It’s going to be amazing.

“Adding the first submission loss to his record would be awesome. And it will happen. It will happen.”