The days and weeks prior to UFC 263 were filled for Deiveson Figueiredo. There were the usual obligations of a UFC champion, interviews, personal appearances and the like, as well as training for a rematch with Brandon Moreno.
But there was more, so much more.
Figueiredo was still managing his gym in Souré, Brazil. His family life kept him busy. He had a million little things to do.
It showed when he stepped into the Octagon at Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona, to defend his flyweight championship against Moreno. Seven months earlier, they’d fought to a thrilling draw, and Figueiredo oozed with confidence as he prepared for the rematch.
“I knew I would destroy him,” Figueiredo said.
But Moreno had improved substantially from the first bout, working on the things he’d learned the first time. Figueiredo wasn’t as good.
The result was a one-sided bout that ended in a Moreno victory by rear naked choke. After the fight, Figueiredo embraced his rival in a bear hug and lifted him off his feet. It was, in a way, his way of saying goodbye to the flyweight division.
He was sure in that moment that his next fight would be at bantamweight and that he’d pursue a title there. And while a bantamweight title shot may yet be in his future, when he walks into the cage at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California, on Saturday to fight Moreno in a trilogy bout, he’ll be looking to regain his flyweight title.
And for the last two-plus months, he’s done nothing but think of winning his belt back. The work he’s put in with Henry Cejudo, Eric Albarracin and company at Fight Ready in Scottsdale, Arizona, is apparent: He looks like he could be competing in a bodybuilding competition, with muscles on top of muscles covering his torso.
“I didn’t want to stay in the flyweight division because I had so many complications with my diet and I just didn’t think it was feasible any more,” Figueiredo said.”But I changed a lot of things in my life. I got a new nutritionist, I got a new team, I quit managing my business and I just got a new attitude. Eric and Henry looked at me as an athlete and they’ve treated me like that.
“I was heavy last time and it showed in my performance. I’ve never come into a fight like this, this light, and feeling so powerful.”
After his loss to Moreno, Figueiredo was surfing on Instagram when he saw a post by Albarracin, who had coached Cejudo to titles at flyweight and bantamweight. He liked the way Albarracin talked about the sport and training for a fight.
They began talking and Albarracin invited him to train in Scottsdale. Figueiredo quickly accepted. He was working with Cejudo, who had been one of the sport’s pound-for-pound best before his abrupt retirement last year, and all-time great Jon Jones.
Figueiredo saw how they came to work every day. He loved the insights that Cejudo and Albarracin provided. He knew he’d found the right place.
“I’m going to be completely different,” Figueiredo said. “It will be like there is a different guy in this body. We worked a lot of wrestling and you’ll see that. I’m stronger, more explosive. I’m just different.”
He’s vowed to deliver Moreno’s “head on a platter” to Cejudo as payback for some perceived slight. Moreno had trained with Cejudo previously and even lived in his home briefly, but the two split.
Figueiredo saw it as an act of betrayal and wants to defeat Moreno as payback for what Cejudo has done for him.
And while he was always brimming with confidence, he finally realizes how good he could be. The public, he said, only saw a glimmer of his overall talents because he didn’t prepare properly before and failed to manage his weight.
UFC president Dana White hailed Figueiredo’s decision to reinvent himself.
“He’s a bad-ass fighter, man, and when he’s ready and in shape, let me tell you, there aren’t many more dangerous than he is,” White said.
Despite the changes, Figueiredo is a substantial underdog at BetMGM. Moreno is -175 while Figueiredo is +145.
Figueiredo scoffs at the odds, but insists he’s not bothered. Moreno is favored, he said, because he won the last fight and, more importantly, because bettors haven’t been able to see what Figueiredo’s done with Cejudo.
He put his life aside to focus on regaining the championship and in his mind, it’s been worth the effort.
“The only thing I don’t like is that I didn’t do this before,” Figueiredo said. “But believe me, you will see the best version of me you have ever seen. Trust me.”