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After almost three years away from the Octagon, Brazilian bantamweight Thomas Almeida will finally make his return against Jonathan Martinez at the featherweight division.
“I’m really glad Martinez accepted that fight on such short notice,” Almeida told Sherdog. “When I was in London, getting the connecting flight to Abu Dhabi, [UFC matchmaker Sean] Shelby called us telling [me] my opponent got [COVID-19]. I got really upset. After almost the years away, after all the diet, the strong camp, that was unbelievable. But Shelby told me, ‘don’t worry, you will fight.’ And when I got in Abu Dhabi, he already got Martinez. The only point is that he couldn’t reach bantamweight on time so I accepted to fight in featherweight. What actually turned into being an amazing experience.
“I don’t recall [ever being allowed to eat] an ice cream one month before a fight, and here I was able to do that in the fight week,” Almeida celebrated.
Despite the unexpected step up in weight and the subsequent “amazing featherweight experience,” the bout did not change the plans of his coach Diego Lima.
“With all anxiety involved in that return, that ended up being good for us, but we know that Thomas’ category is bantamweight and, for sure, that’s where he will be fighting next,“ Lima reiterated.
The Chute Boxe head Lima also made many compliments about his student, especially concerning Almeida’s work ethic.
“I would say Thomas is an MMA nerd. He is the first to arrive in the train, last to leave and is always studying fights and opponents. For sure he makes a head coach life easier.”
The “Chute Boxe nerd” guaranteed that the long time away from the Octagon was crucial for him to become a different, and better fighter.
“I used all this time to evolve in different areas,” Almeida claimed. “Master Lima brought an Iranian wrestling coach to our team that added a couple of new [skills] to my game. I use to be a pretty predictable fighter; not anymore.”
When asked to choose a ranked fighter in case of win, Almeida inadvertently confirmed that his technical evolution was not just physical, but mental as well.
“Johnathan Martinez is such a tough opponent, left-handed, tough knees and is a great challenge to my return. Thinking about anyone but him would be a total lack of respect. One step each time,” the Brazilian concluded.
UFC Fight Night 180 takes place on Oct. 17 at the Flash Forum in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, and it will be headlined by a featherweight scrap between Brian Ortega and Chan Sung Jung. Serving in the co-main event is a women’s flyweight tilt as Jessica Andrade moves to flyweight to take on Katlyn Chookagian. Earlier on in the main card, Almeida comes to blows with Martinez at featherweight.