Some fighters want to rush their way to the top of their division. Others, like Sean O’Malley, know their value and want to get paid good money to face top-ranked foes.
Brazilian middleweight prospect Caio Borralho sees the latter option as the smartest approach to the game.
Borralho calls himself the future of the middleweight division in Brazil after winning four times under the Zuffa umbrella since 2021, two of which came on Dana White’s Contender Series. But don’t expect him to call out a top-ranked 185-pounder if he’s victorious Saturday against Makhmud Muradov at UFC 280 in Abu Dhabi.
“I’m not in a rush to fight someone in the rankings, to be honest with you,” Borralho said on MMA Fighting’s Trocação Franca podcast. “I’ll fight this one and maybe one or two more outside the rankings, put some cash in my pocket. It’s important to have fight hours in the promotion. The longer you spend inside the octagon and the more fights you get, the more you evolve as a person and an athlete. I want to climb slowly, doing what I have to do.”
Borralho voiced his interest in a match with Dricus Du Plessis following his most recent UFC win over Armen Petrosyan this past July, but the UFC paired up the South African against Darren Till on the Dec. 10 card. Borralho doesn’t have a name in mind for his post-fight callout this time, but aims to face “someone ranked ahead of me so I get to the top 15, and then top 10, and then reach my goal of becoming a world champion.”
The money has to be right, though.
“People get overexcited about that,” Borralho said of asking for top-ranked opponents in the UFC while getting paid $20,000 to show and $20,000 to win. “I keep my feet on the ground. I know about the business, I know how the game works. I’m not saying I wouldn’t accept a fight against a ranked opponent, but I would if they gave me a purse that is way bigger than what I’m paid today. I’m in no rush. I’ll win this one, the third fight on my contract, and God willing re-sign with a good purse then start to face guys that are better ranked.
“But the truth about this division is that even the No. 20 ranked guys are tough. The middleweight division is really tough. Even the unranked guys are dangerous. This is the fight that will take my life to the next level, both financially and in terms of hype, having people talking about me. There will be more eyes watching this event, one of the biggest of the year. This fight will take me to the next level and I’m mature and ready for this next step of my life.”
Unbeaten in 12 straight MMA bouts since a loss in his second pro fight in 2015, Borralho is excited to compete in front of a large crowd for the first time since winning in 97 seconds at MFC 2 in Osasco, Sao Paulo. He travelled to Abu Dhabi expecting to be in hostile territory, but was told by people in the U.A.E. that any alleged beef between Muradov and both Khabib Nurmagomedov and Islam Makhachev could sway Russian fans in his favor.
“I forgot what it feels like to fight in front [of a large crowd],” Borralho said. “I want to see how I’m going to react. I’m happy to be on this card, really, the biggest of the year. It was my dream to fight in the UFC and fight in huge arenas and [have the] crowd cheering for you or against you, but the pandemic came and I had four fights at the APEX. I’m happy with this opportunity, and it will only make my victory bigger.”
Muradov is 25-7 as a professional and won his first three appearances in the UFC over Alessio Di Chirico and Trevor Smith, both in 2019, and Andrew Sanchez in 2021, before losing to Gerald Meerschaert by submission later that year.
“The strategy will be to start slow and let him get tired,” Borralho said, “but I’m predicting I’ll end this fight. I want that so much because I left the other ones to the hands of the judges. Even though I was do dominant and had no doubt I was going to win the decision, I want to finish the fight this time.”