The UFC middleweight championship stayed in the hands of Brazilians for many years after Anderson Silva claimed the title that once belonged to Murilo Bustamante.
Now rising 185-pounder Andre Muniz wants to bring that belt back to where he believes it belongs.
Speaking on this week’s episode of MMA Fighting’s Portuguese-language podcast Trocação Franca, “Sergipano” acknowledged that he’ll likely still be at least one win away from a title shot after his upcoming UFC clash with Uriah Hall on April 16, but that when the time comes, he plans to live up to the history already laid out by his countrymen and capture the belt that helped make “The Spider” one of the greatest fighters of all-time.
“I’ll tell you, man, Anderson is incomparable,” Muniz said. “If you had the opportunity to watch Anderson Silva fight, you know what I’m talking about. But it’s a belt that belongs to Brazil. The first Brazilian [UFC] champion, Murilo Bustamante, and Anderson Silva after that. Whether it’s me or another Brazilian, it’s a belt that belongs to us Brazilians.”
The middleweight title currently resides in New Zealand with Israel Adesanya, who earned his first shot at the UFC belt with a decision win over Silva in 2019. Adesanya has since gone on to win five straight middleweight title bouts, culminating in his most recent title defense at UFC 271, which saw “The Last Stylebender” defeat Robert Whittaker via decision.
But Adesanya is fast running low on challengers, and that could play into Muniz’s favor.
“My goal is to enter the top 10 now,” Muniz said. “If I climb one more step, I’ll start to see the belt [in the horizon].”
Muniz is 4-0 so far in the UFC with submissions over the legendary Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza and, most recently, Eryk Anders at UFC 269. Hall has never been submitted in a professional MMA bout, however “Sergipano” aims to change that come April 16.
“I’d be lying if I told you I don’t want to [submit him], right?” Muniz said with a laugh. “I want that, of course. It would be another submission to my record, adding more [buzz] to my hype towards the belt. But we know a fight can go the same way it’s going recently for him, to a decision, round after round, so I’m preparing my body and mind knowing that we might enter a war.
“But the thing is, I only need one opening. If he gives me one opportunity — if you look at my recent statistics, I’m not wasting positions.”
Hall was on a four-fight winning streak over stars like Silva and Chris Weidman prior to a decision setback against Sean Strickland this past July. When Muniz looks at the film, he’s seen changes in the way Hall performs compared to his early UFC and TUF days.
“He used to come out more [aggressively] and give more openings,” Muniz said of Hall. “It’s hard to take someone down when they don’t expose themselves too much. He’ll force me to go out there in the first round and trade on the feet, close the distance, and know the right moment to get near. … We’re studying him a lot, his movements and his defense on the ground, to surprise him with something different. We’ll find an opening and work on that. I’m sure we’ll impose our game on April 16 and come out with the victory.
“If you watch his fight with ‘Cara de Sapato’ [Antonio Carlos Jr.], someone with an excellent level on the ground, a jiu-jitsu world champion, he simply survived there, holding his arm,” Muniz added. “He did nothing on the ground. He just does an anti-jiu-jitsu, trying to defend and survive. But I think my jiu-jitsu is different than many people in my division. I really go for the submission at all times.
“He’s never trained or fought someone that fights the way I fight. I’m in constant evolution. This fight, knowing he won’t take me down, I can use more of my Muay Thai and boxing, which I’ve been working on, and show something new to this division. I’ll surprise a lot of people.”