Luana Pinheiro may have victorious in her UFC debut in May against Randa Markos, however things still didn’t exactly go as planned.
The strawweight bout ended in the opening round after Markos landed an illegal upkick at UFC Vegas 25 and was disqualified by referee Mark Smith after the doctor ruled Pinheiro unable to continue. Now returning to the cage six months later against Sam Hughes at UFC Vegas 43, Pinheiro chooses to look at that night as an “important experience.”
“I was under attack by haters, my opponent’s hypocrisy, commentators’ and journalists’ guess-ism,” Pinheiro told MMA Fighting. “Some will support you and others will only try to pull you down. It was important for me not to get over my head, but that’s in the past. It happened, I won, I re-watched the fight and studied what had to be studied, and I’m a stronger and better prepared Luana now.
“Those who like me will continue to support me. Those who don’t will continue to hate me no matter what happens inside the octagon. It happens to any fighter from any organization, popular or not, so I try to remain focused on what happens inside the octagon and win. That’s all the matters.”
Markos was recently released by the UFC after defeating Livinha Souza via decision, and Pinheiro doesn’t mind not getting another shot to hand Markos a proper victory.
“I don’t care,” Pinheiro said. “Randa made a decision outside the rules and was penalized for it and had to pay the consequences for her choices. I won and remain looking forward to evolve as a martial artist and being next to the best of the division and the belt.”
Pinheiro, a judo specialist that was signed by the UFC after knocking out Stephanie Frausto at Dana White’s Contender Series in November 2020, was scheduled to face veteran Jessica Penne at UFC Vegas 43, however Hughes stepped in as a late-notice replacement.
“There are no easy fights in the UFC,” Pinheiro said. “If you got this far, if you step inside the octagon, that’s because you’re one of the best fighters in the world, you are where every fighter wants to be. [Hughes is] one of the best fighters in the world and will present me a great challenge, maybe the biggest in my career.”
Hughes is 0-2 in the UFC with defeats to Tecia Torres and Loma Lookboonmee.
For Pinheiro, the “strategy changes a little but the plan remains the same” following Penne’s withdrawal.
“My idea is to use what I have best to frustrate her in every action and don’t let her feel comfortable,” Pinheiro said. “Sam doesn’t have as much fight experience and hours in the UFC as Jessica Penne but she’s just as tough. I see her in a do-or-die situation. She has nothing to lose. She’s coming in as a late-notice replacement so I believe that’s the most dangerous an opponent can be.
“I envision many scenarios in my head,” she continued. “It can be a grappling fight where we’re both comfortable. Maybe both of us will decide to trade on the feet, maybe it’s a close fight where we’re both looking for the best position and one takedown decides the game. Maybe it’s a mix of all this. Regardless, I only see one ending in all those scenarios, and that’s me with a smiling face and my hands raised.”