Deiveson Figueiredo had the perfect segue into a happy holiday season late last month when he impressively defended his UFC flyweight title for the first time.
Mixed martial arts fighters don’t celebrate achievements or holidays in quite the same way as most people, however.
Just three weeks after his hand was raised, Figueiredo is back at the UFC Apex gym on Saturday night to try to get it raised again.
After a bit of financial persuasion from the UFC, Figueiredo (20-1) agreed to stay in Las Vegas long enough to save the day at cancellation-battered UFC 256.
The Brazilian champion will attempt to put the shortest time between title defenses in UFC history when he takes on Brandon Moreno (18-5-1), who also fought at UFC 255 three weeks earlier, in the main event of the promotion’s final pay-per-view card of a tumultuous year.
The physical challenge of the shortest turnaround between title fights in UFC history would be nearly impossible for many fighters, let alone champions. But after Figueiredo submitted Alex Perez in just 117 seconds at UFC 255, he stayed right in training for UFC 256.
I had a perfect three weeks here, Figueiredo said through an interpreter. With just 20 days between fights, we couldn’t train too hard. We couldn’t tire my body out too much, so we were doing a lot of technical training and just keeping fresh.”
A victory would cap a remarkable 4-0 year for Figueiredo, who won in Virginia in February and in Abu Dhabi in July. But as a big, powerful flyweight with more finishing ability than most of his division, Figueiredo is built for impressive feats.
When I think of that, Im really happy and proud of myself, Figueiredo said of his resilience in 2020.
The UFC didn’t actually have to beg him to stay in town, either: Figueiredo boldly challenged Moreno to a bout in December in his UFC 255 post-fight interview.
When they offered me Brandon Moreno, the first thing I did was reach out to my nutritionist, Figueiredo said, noting his prior weight-cutting challenges as a big flyweight. Once she said my body was good if I focused on the diet, I accepted the fight right away.
Moreno would be the first Mexican-born UFC champion if he can pull off the upset. The Tijuana native earned his title shot by stopping Brandon Royval in the waning seconds of the first round at UFC 255 for his third straight win.
It’s big for my country, because I can change the sport in Mexico if I get the title, Moreno said. When the UFC gave me this opportunity, I couldn’t believe it, because everything was so fast. This sport is getting bigger in my country, but we need more work. I know I can be an example for all the young kids who try to start in this sport. I can show Mexico and Latin America in general that you can do it.
The flyweight title fight headlines a show that has endured major changes and cancellations due to injuries and COVID-19 testing.
Lightweight contender Tony Ferguson takes on Charles Oliveira in the penultimate bout, while strawweight contender Mackenzie Dern, middleweight veteran Ronaldo Jacar Souza and former heavyweight champ Junior Dos Santos also are on the pay-per-view portion of the show.
Welterweight champion Kamaru Usman, featherweight champion Amanda Nunes and bantamweight champion Petr Yan all were tentatively booked to fight at UFC 256 at various points, but all of the bouts were scrapped or postponed. Two additional undercard bouts were scrapped two days before the show due to COVID-19 positives.
The popular Ferguson (25-4) is on the rebound after getting battered and stopped by Justin Gaethje in May during the UFC’s first event back from its two-month coronavirus pause. Ferguson’s loss ended his eight-year, 12-fight winning streak, but the former 155-pound interim champion is determined to fight his way back into contention.
That’s a tall order against Oliveira (29-8), who has won seven straight fights over the last three years as a brilliantly technical submission specialist.
But Ferguson has earned six Fight of the Night honors in his last seven bouts, and his combination of wrestling skill, superb conditioning and reckless attitude make him capable of anything.
I know if I get to work and get back to who I am, I’ll be right back where I should be, Ferguson said. “People remember your losses more than your victories.