The moment puts an end to a long three-year wait for the Brazilian talent.
The UFC put on its first — and so far only — Brazilian season of Dana White’s Contender Series in 2018, which led to the signings of Augusto Sakai, Johnny Walker, Marina Rodriguez, and Thiago Moises. Nascimento came up short in his 125-pound clash with Raulian Paiva on the season, however moments after Paiva’s split decision win which earned him a UFC contract, Nascimento pulled Dana White aside to properly introduce himself — and that’s when Nascimento says the president of the UFC gave him a heads up.
“Dana White praised the fight, called it the best of the whole season at the time,” Nascimento told MMA Fighting. “I was very upset when the fight was over, of course. I thought I had won but the judges gave it to Raulian, and he’s doing a great job in the UFC.
“I talked to Dana White after the fight was over, pulled him aside to introduce myself, talk to him, and I remember his exact words: ‘Keep training because we’ll be watching [you] and we’ll call you as soon as possible.’”
Weeks and months passed and Nascimento’s phone never rang. A series of cancelled fights in 2019 and a global pandemic that shut down the sport for months in 2020 kept “Puro Osso” on the sidelines for longer than he planned, but a quick first-round submission in his first fight back in July 2021 was enough.
“The call theoretically took three years [to come], right?” Nascimento said. “It’s not that it took too long, it happened at the right time. It happened right when I’m ready for the world’s biggest promotion.
“I knew I had to be coming off a win to be able to negotiate a spot in the UFC. Contender Series was my last fight [before July 2021] and I’ve had many fights cancelled since, also had knee surgery, and I was at a deadlock at many occasions.
“Everything happened slowly. Pandemic, cards not happening. I had the opportunity to fight at Punho de Aço 6 on short notice [at bantamweight] and it was unexpected. I really didn’t expect to sign [with the UFC] right after that victory, I thought I’d need one more, but [UFC matchmaker] Mick Maynard gave me the opportunity to sign and show my work in the UFC.”
Victorious in 18 of 23 professional bouts since his MMA debut a decade ago, and a teammate of UFC lightweight champion Charles Oliveira, Nascimento promised to “go for the finish the entire time” when he makes his UFC debut and showcase a “more mature” and “more focused” version of himself.
“We both have similar styles because we really go for the fight,” Nascimento said of Ulanbekov, who beat Brazilian flyweights Bruno Silva, Denilson Matos, and Denis Araujo in his past three outings. “He’s not that typical Russian that wants to stall and play safe. He exposes himself on the feet and works on the ground as well, so I think it’s going to be a good fight.
“Honestly, it’s how my manager Jorge Patino ‘Macaco’ always says — a goal is still a goal, no matter if it’s a nice one or not. I want to put on a good fight and impress, of course, but my idea is to win.”