Heading into his PFL debut, Cezar Ferreira received an extra motivational push that ended up carrying him all the way to the league playoffs.
In the PFL’s truncated 2021 season, one first-round finish would be enough to land a spot in the postseason and that’s exactly what Ferreira got in his first fight for the organization in April.
Not only did the quick finish of Nick Roehrick earn “Mutante” six points and essentially make the result of his second regular season fight inconsequential (he lost a decision to Chris Camozzi two months later), it was also his first finish via strikes since he was a cast member on the inaugural season of The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil nine years ago.
In his post-fight speech, Ferreira, 36, dedicated the win to his daughter Yara and thanked her for a message that boosted his spirits ahead of the fight.
So what exactly did Yara have to say?
“She’s a very special kid,” Ferreira told MMA Fighting. “She’s just 13 years old and sometimes she says something or shares some thoughts that is ahead of her age. The way she sees life is really motivating for me and like I said, she’s just 13 years old. She’s thinking about becoming an entrepreneur, developing a company.
“I remember when I was 13 my passion was just to go play with the other kids and do soccer. The message that she sent me was very motivating because winning is not everything, but wanting to win is everything. Understand? You have to have your passion to want to win. Sometimes things go wrong, but you’ve gotta make sure you do your best and put your 100 percent effort on your job. That’s what she tried to pass on to me the night before the fight. She said, ‘Father, you know that you always say you have to do what you love and do because you want to, not because somebody else wants it.’”
On Friday, Ferreira takes on Marthin Hamlet at PFL 9 in Hollywood, Fla., with the winner moving on to the light heavyweight tournament finals on Oct. 27. The tournament winner earns the title of 2021 PFL champion and a $1 million prize.
A glance at Ferreira’s recent results would make him out to be an odd candidate to be fighting for a title given that he has one win in his past four outings. The Brazilian veteran parted ways with the UFC in 2019 after back-to-back losses, defeated Roehrick, and then lost to Camozzi. Ferreira is glad that his finish was so valuable and he’s not letting his slump affect his mental approach to the Hamlet fight.
“This is a big tournament,” Ferreira said. “Sometimes when you’re facing a big challenger and if you see the whole picture, that can freeze you. You have to think about it one step at a time, one face at a time, one fight at a time. So right now we did enough to guarantee our spot in the playoffs.
“What is in the past is in the past, you’ve got to think about what’s coming. I know it’s a big tournament, a $1 million tournament, so our focus is just on the upcoming fight. He’s a good fighter, he’s strong, but he also has his weaknesses and that’s what you’ve got to go after.”
Ferreira did mention that he dealt with back inflammation ahead of his fight in June and thinks that the painkillers and medication he took to deal with the ailment may have affected his cardio. He noticeably faded in the second and third rounds as Camozzi took control.
Overall, Ferreira’s move up to 205 pounds has been a boon for him, though he stopped short of estimating how much the change could potentially extend his career.
“That’s the harder question,” Ferreira said. “Right now, I’m still feeling good going to the gym for practice, training, so once that feeling starts to go away, that’s the time to think about retiring. Right now, I’m feeling awesome training so I’m not even thinking about retirement.
“I don’t want to think about that because once you say, ‘Okay, yeah, next year I’m gonna retire,’ mentally for a mindset that’s not good. When the time comes, I’m gonna feel it. Also, my coaches, they are very transparent. They’re gonna say, ‘Cezar, it’s time to stop. We don’t want to see you out there no more.’”
Ferreira’s opponent Hamlet told MMA Fighting that he believes all the pressure will be on Ferreira on Friday as this could be the 14-year veteran’s last chance to claim a title from a major MMA promotion. However, Ferreira dismissed that notion.
“The pressure is for everybody,” Ferreira said. “Everybody’s fighting for the same prize. Let’s be honest, we are there because of the prize, because of the money. We want to be a champion and we want to get the $1 million prize. The pressure is for everyone, not just for me, not just for him. For everyone.”