After over a year away, Diego Ferreira is ready to pick up where he left off and make some noise in the UFC’s most interesting division in 2021.
Ferreira returns to action for the first time since his UFC 246 submission win over Anthony Pettis in January 2020 to face Beneil Dariush on Saturday at UFC Vegas 18. The event takes place at the UFC APEX and will stream on ESPN+.
The Texas native, and the current No. 10 lightweight in the UFC, gets back to competition with a new look 155-pound division. With Khabib Nurmagomedov announcing his retirement after his submission win over Justin Gaethje at UFC 254 in October, the emergence of fresh top contenders such as Charles Oliveira and Michael Chandler, Tony Ferguson losing back-to-back fights, Dustin Poirier knocking out Conor McGregor at UFC 257, and more, Ferreira is excited to dive head first into the deep waters of the lightweight division for the first time in 13 months.
“For the last five years, it’s been Khabib and Tony Ferguson, and those guys, but now it’s a different way to see,” Ferreira told MMA Fighting while appearing on What the Heck. “I’m really excited because it opens the door for all of us, it gives us the chance to get there and make the change in the division for us to climb the ladder and get close to the belt.
“The most wins in the division right now are me, Charles Oliveira and another guy, maybe Dustin Poirier. All those guys, Justin Gaethje, I think I can beat all of those guys. It’s just my opinion only, but I think I would have a chance.”
The Fortis MMA standout wasn’t able to build upon the momentum of his submission win over Pettis this past year for a number of reasons—most notably the COVID-19 pandemic that cancelled one of the events he was scheduled to compete on, plus recovering from a bout of the virus that knocked him out of his scheduled November matchup with Drew Dober.
As Ferreira was cleared and ready to go, a potential opportunity came along that got Ferreira excited after losing the Dober matchup: Rafael dos Anjos was without an opponent for UFC Vegas 14. “CDF” put his name in the hat in hopes that the fight would take place at 170 but it didn’t come to fruition since Paul Felder agreed to replace Islam Makhachev on less than a week’s notice at 155.
“RDA” would go on to win a one-sided decision to move up the ladder, while Felder dropped his second consecutive fight. While some things were changing, Felder’s placement in the top-15 did not, which admittedly frustrated the fighter one spot behind him on the rankings that has won five straight fights.
“Paul Felder has two [straight] losses in the division and it didn’t change in the rankings,” Ferreira said. “I don’t think it makes sense. I mean, damn, he’s lost twice in a row and he’s still ranked in front of me? C’mon! That’s something that really bothered me. It’s like I have to show my worth now and I think this is the opportunity to step back in the cage in 2021 and show I deserve to be in front of those guys—especially those who lost twice in a row. In 2021, that’s a promise from me.”
Ahead of UFC 257, the lightweight divisional changes and potential additions were becoming more prevalent. Michael Chandler got a huge opportunity in his octagon debut to compete in the co-main event of a PPV headlined by Conor McGregor and delivered a ferocious KO win over Dan Hooker.
Another name that was tossed around by UFC President Dana White in the 155-pound division was Nate Diaz. Although there is the “I won’t believe it ‘til I see it” mentality surrounding either of the Diaz brothers, Nate would certainly be a name to keep an eye on should he be in the mix at lightweight.
While Ferreira’s frustrations continue to mount seeing people jump the queue, another part of him sees potential to change the narratives. Of course, he needs to take care of business this Saturday and negate the first loss of his career to Dariush from UFC 179 in October 2014.
“Michael Chandler jumping in front of us, and excuse my language, it’s bullsh*t,” Ferreira stated. “He jumped in front of all my f*ckin’ hard work and I don’t like it at all. It is what it is. I want that fight. If one day I get the chance to face Mike Chandler, I want that fight. I’d love to mix up my skills with his.
“The UFC sometimes is about that fight money. But it gets me hungry to get to that spot, and if it gets me up there to fight a Nate Diaz, I’d love to fight him too. If I have the opportunity, if I have the chance to get there and prove my work to get into the cage with him, I’d be glad to fight him.”