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Diego Ferreira: ‘My jiu-jitsu is way better than’ Gregor Gillespie’s

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Diego Ferreira choked out former champ Anthony Pettis in his most recent UFC victory in 2020.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Diego Ferreira and Gregor Gillespie had long winning streaks snapped in their most recent octagon appearances, but only one will rebound at UFC Vegas 26, a Fight Night card scheduled for May 8 at the UFC APEX in Las Vegas.

The Brazilian lightweight, who lost a split decision rematch to Beneil Dariush in February, admits he expects Gillespie to return a better fighter after losing in devastating fashion to Kevin Lee in November 2019, his first setback in 14 MMA bouts.

“I expect him [to change] because I have,” Ferreira in an interview with MMA Fighting. “After my consecutive losses [to Dariush and Dustin Poirier in 2014 and 2015] I worked really hard and focused more. These two years he took off to then return to fighting, I think he will be way better than before.

“I think he will be more alert with kicks and maybe throw sore of those, something I haven’t seen him do before. I’ll have to work hard with my jiu-jitsu, more than I did in my last fight, and do more clinching and takedowns. Taking him down won’t be any easy but I never lose hope [laughs].”

Gillespie’s 13-1 record in MMA includes five submission victories, but Ferreira, who first moved from Brazil to the United States in an attempt to become the next “Jacare” Souza, is a black belt in jiu-jitsu with seven submissions to his credit, including a rear-naked choke finish over former UFC and WEC champion Anthony Pettis.

“I’m positive that my jiu-jitsu is way better than his,” Ferreira said. “He’s a strong guy, he comes with that willpower to win his next fight because he’s coming off a [bad] loss. I think he will try to finish the fight and that’s what I have to do. I have to capitalize on his game.”

A former Ring of Combat welterweight titleholder, Gillespie won his first six octagon appearances with five finishes, stopping the likes of Yancy Medeiros and Vinc Pichel on the ground, and Ferreira doesn’t have much footage available on him attempting to survive inside the cage.

“I haven’t seen in trouble before,” he said. “Kevin Lee kicked his head in his last fight, but it’s hard to see a moment where he’s in trouble, so I think his wrestling will be a key part for him and I have to focus a lot on my wrestling as well. I’m working a lot on my defense and my attacks, and that will make a huge difference.”

In the end, Ferreira pictures himself forcing Gillespie to tap inside the distance.

“I see myself submitting him,” Ferreira said. “I’ve changed a lot of things from my last camp. I wasn’t doing much jiu-jitsu, I was training more to avoid bad positions against Dariush, but I can do much more grappling this time.”