Zarah Fairn dos Santos will be honoring her mother when she enters the octagon Saturday to face Josiane Nunes at UFC 283 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The French featherweight is the daughter of Maria Josi dos Santos — a Brazilian woman who happens to have the same name of her next opponent — and a Moroccan man.
“My story is beautiful because my return to the UFC is in the country of my mother,” Fairn said in an interview with MMA Fighting. “I know I’m representing France, but if I’m win, this victory is also for Brazil. My team is from Brazil, my mother is from Brazil. This fight is interesting for the people in Brazil because they can’t lose, you know? [laughs]”
Fairn started her fighting career in Estonia in 2013, back when MMA was still illegal in France, and signed to compete in the UFC six years later. She’s 0-2 so far in the company with defeats to former title contenders Megan Anderson and Felicia Spencer, and only got to meet her current coach during her last fight week.
Fairn said her coaches at the time had trouble getting to Norfolk, Virginia, and she was left alone for days at the UFC hotel prior to the Spencer match. Maizena, who coached Deiveson Figueiredo for his main event win over Joseph Benavidez, realized she was alone at the hotel and offered help.
The French fighter said she doesn’t need “just a coach to go to the UFC,” but a team that feels like family. “A professional team with a big heart,” she explained. Fairn eventually decided to move to Belem and train with Maizena, Figueiredo and the whole team.
“I’m happy because my story is special,” she said. “I have my team from Brazil now, and my first back in the USA after three years is in Brazil. The team of the champ, ‘Daico’ [Figueiredo]. It’s crazy. Thank you God for that.”
Fairn was originally scheduled to face Nunes back in April 2021 but missed weight after taking antibiotics to battle an infection during fight week. Injuries and issues prevented her from competing multiple times after that, but destiny brought her to Brazil.
“I’m really, really happy to fight Josiane,” said Fairn, who said she thanks UFC for not letting her go during troubled times. “I know it’s not easy when you have a long time without fighting. It’s not easy mentally, but, for me, it doesn’t make sense because if you want to fight in your heart, you want to return in the cage, you know the risk you have. I’m preparing really well. Training with my new team is not easy. Killing myself every day. But it’s too easy for me to go into the cage.”
One of the few featherweights under contract with the promotion, Nunes is 9-1 as a professional fighter following back-to-back wins in the octagon over Bea Malecki and Ramona Pascual. The Malecki finish also earned her a $50,000 performance bonus.
“This fight will be interesting because Josiane Nunes started in the UFC and had a really good win,” Fairn said. “This girl is really strong, has too much power. It’s small, the size, but it’s not important for me, small or big. She’s a fighter and I respect the fighter. She’s in the UFC and won fights in the UFC. I respect that. It’s a good fight for me.”