Lima, who first competed on TUF 19 season, returned for the special “Redemption” season in 2017 as a member of T.J. Dillashaw’s team. Brown was an assistant coach and helped fighters prepare for their bouts in the reality show, and Lima went back in time to reflect on those moments in the TUF gym before ultimately saying yes to a clash with Brown UFC Vegas 29 this Saturday.
“I’m an old school guy and I respect everybody,” Lima said in an interview with MMA Fighting. “If the guy helped me, if he did everything for me to win inside the house, I wouldn’t fight him. But then I remembered Matt Brown is different, he’s more like, ‘You have to fight. I’ll fight anyone.’ If I turned down this fight he’d call a scrub [laughs], so I have to fight. He wants me to fight him. I know that’s how he thinks. He would feel disrespected, so I had to accept.”
Lima entered 2021 on a three-fight winning streak but dropped a decision to Belal Muhammad in February. Brown’s career, on the other hand, is at a crossroads after going 3-7 in his past 10 octagon appearances.
Lima won’t expect an easy night in the office Saturday.
“Look at the names he’s fought,” said the Brazilian, referring to Brown’s defeats to Carlos Condit, Miguel Baeza, Donald Cerrone, Jake Ellenberger, Demian Maia, Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler in that 10-fight stretch. “He’s not fighting nobodies, he’s not losing to scrubs. Of course, age comes, and he’s had many wars in the past. His fights are always wars and he’s still dangerous. We have to be careful at all times because he has good elbows and knee, so we could be in danger all the time.”
“I think [Brown’s skid] affects him in a positive way,” he continued. “He’ll enter every fight like, ‘Man, I’ll do everything I can do win.’ Even the ones he lost, you can see he left his heart in there. He doesn’t wanna go [home] with another loss. It’s not something you get used to. If you get used to losses, man, you don’t need to be in this sport.”
Lima doesn’t expect Brown to hang up his gloves with a loss Saturday because “I guarantee you he will retire with a win,” and foresees a finish at the UFC APEX.
“We have a good gameplan for this fight, and I see a submission in this fight,” Lima said. “I see a submission in the first or second round. Like I said, I’m ready for everything. I want to show a new Dhiego Lima in this fight, and I will show it. I’ll finish this fight.”