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Augusto Sakai knows ‘my head is on the line’ at UFC Vegas 70 but ignores pressure: ‘It’s about redemption for me’

UFC 269: Augusto Sakai v Tai Tuivasa
Augusto Sakai
Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Augusto Sakai knows the future of his career could be decided Saturday night at UFC Vegas 70.

The Brazilian heavyweight impressed early in his UFC career, joining the company following a knockout victory at Dana White’s Contender Series and then winning four in a row against the likes of Andrei Arlovski and Marcin Tybura, but that was it.

A split-decision nod over Blagoy Ivanov was followed by four straight knockout defeats to some of the division’s toughest in Alistair Overeem, Jairzinho Rozenstruik, Tai Tuivasa and Serghei Spivac. Now, Sakai faces Don’Tale Mayes at the UFC APEX.

“I know my head is on the line, I can get cut,” Sakai said on this week’s Trocação Franca podcast. “It’s a huge pressure, I’m aware of it, but at the same time I don’t keep thinking too much about it, you know? I’m focused on giving my best there and performing what we know.”

Not too many fighters have the luxury of losing four in a row in the UFC and still get another shot in the octagon, and Sakai says that’s credit for doing a good job in his first appearances.

“I believe the UFC has decided to keep me because I never turned down a fight,” said Sakai, who went 10-1-1 un his pre-UFC career, losing only to Cheick Kongo in Bellator. “I’ve had eight fights in the UFC and unfortunately I’m coming off this very bad run, but I had a great start in the UFC and they know my potential, they now what I can do. They know I’ll bounce back.

“If you keep thinking about the possibility of getting cut it’s all downhill from there, right? I know the pressure exists, I know it’s a heavy weight to carry, but I remain focused on getting there at my 100 percent and giving my all to come out with the victory. I try not to focus too much on extra cage stuff.”

Mayes, who is 9-4 with one no-contest as a professional, won back-to-back fights over Roque Martinez and Josh Parisian. His last bout was a loss, then overturned to a no-contest after his opponent Hamdy Abdelwahab failed a drug test for the anabolic agent metenolone.

“You can’t give [Mayes] too much space because he likes to move and do crazy things, spinning attacks and switch stances, so you can’t let him stay comfortable,” Sakai said.

“He gets uncomfortable walking backwards, in grappling exchanges. He likes it when you give him too much space. … I truly believe I’ll win this one by knockout. I’m ready. I’ve been training for a while and I’m focused on bouncing back. It’s about redemption for me so I’ll stay focused and follow the strategy, but always searching for the knockout.”

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