The new year didn’t kick off the way Brad Tavares expected.
The UFC middleweight was scheduled to face Gregory Rodrigues at UFC 283: Teixeira vs Hill in Brazil, until a minor undisclosed injury hindered Tavares’ training camp. Despite the injury, Tavares was still going to make the walk on fight night, until news reporting his injury was leaked a couple weeks before the fight.
Now with his injury circulating between both camps and the UFC, Tavares, for obvious reasons, felt it wouldn’t be a smart decision to enter a bout against “Robocop” with Rodrigues already knowing his injury. Tavares eventually withdrew from the bout and took the time to recover properly before putting his name back in circulation for a middleweight bout later in the Spring.
“The injury itself wasn’t too bad,” Tavares said. “Honestly, we were still going to fight, we were still going to go down to Brazil but what ended up happening was a matchmaker called my manager to check on me like, ‘Hey, is Brad okay? I heard he’s out.’ We called him like, ‘What do you mean,’ and he said, ‘I just got off the phone with Gregory’s team and they got word that you’ve been injured and you’re out of the fight.’ We never said that. We never announced it. We were still going to go but, at that point, we knew somebody had leaked my injury to the other team so we’re like, ‘Now it doesn’t make sense.’ It’s one thing to fight injured, but to go across the world and fight injured when your opponent knows about it, that doesn’t make sense.”
Throughout his career up until late 2018, Tavares fought two to three times a year, and was coming off his first loss in five fights to none other than UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya. His health took a turn for the worse shortly after, however, when he required three surgeries over the next three years, which hindered his ability to fight as frequently as he desired.
“I just want to stay healthy,” Tavares said. “I want to stay active. For the bulk of my career, I’ve been pretty injury free; serious injuries anyway, because everybody gets injured in the fight game. The last five years I had some pretty serious ones, a few that required surgery. Up until five years ago I never had surgery in my life, I’d never been put under anesthesia. And then, boom, 2018 comes and I break my arm in a fight and I get some complications with my doctor which leads to surgery. Three years straight I had a surgery each year and I just wanted it to stop already. Let’s break this injury streak, stay healthy and stay active.”
Entering fight week with a clean bill of health, Tavares steps into the UFC APEX Octagon for the first time since its inception in June 2019. His past injuries postponed any potential fight opportunities in the venue during the coronavirus pandemic, but his intrigue to compete there grew after watching some of his friends and teammates compete in the APEX these last few years.
Ahead of his scheduled bout with Rodrigues, Tavares mentioned to UFC.com that he loves competing on high-profile pay-per-view cards due to their magnitude and the number of eyes watching his performance. While most of the eyes will be viewing from a screen this weekend when he meets Bruno Silva, Tavares’ excitement is still present.
In 2010, Tavares competed on the 11th season of The Ultimate Fighter as a Team Liddell member. Competing in a smaller venue this weekend, Tavares anticipates a similar, nostalgic feeling when he steps into the Octagon.
“I’ve been in here and watched fights in here a bunch of times,” Tavares said. “I’ve seen some of my friends get granted contracts in here for [Dana White’s Contender Series], and I’ve watched Dan Ige main event in here. It’s kind of funny that this is my first time fighting here. It’ll be a different experience; small, little venue. It’s funny, because everybody was [here] during COVID with no fans but how it worked out for me is I never fought at any of the events with no fans. I tore my ACL during COVID, and my first fight back was in Abu Dhabi, and they had a limited audience so there were still fans there, cheering loud and making noise. I guess there will be fans here, so it’ll kind of be like being in The Ultimate Fighter again.”
Tavares competed on The Ultimate Fighter in 2010, 13 years ago. Let that sink in. Rarely do fighters have 13-year long careers, especially in one promotion, but Tavares finds himself on the cusp of the middleweight rankings in 2023.
What has set Tavares apart from the rest of the pack for over a decade now is his willingness to learn and the constant evolution of his game, something he believes every fighter needs to do or else their time in the sport will get cut very short.
“I talked about this with the broadcast team,” Tavares said regarding his wealth of experience in the Octagon. “They were talking about how the game evolves, the fighters evolve. Dominick Cruz was [saying to] me, ‘You’re basically from my days. You started fighting in 2007, the WEC days when I started, and the game then looks a lot different than it does now.’ He was 100 percent right. That’s something I’ve always known. And that’s in anything. You can put this through any aspect in life, any sport or business. As time goes by, it’s always going to evolve. Everything about it is going to evolve and if you don’t evolve with it, you get left in the dust. In our sport of MMA, if you don’t evolve with it, that means you’re getting your ass kicked.”
This weekend Tavares welcomes Silva at UFC Fight Night: Pavlovich vs Blaydes. Silva carried a seven-fight win streak up until two disappointing results against former middleweight champion Alex Pereira and submission ace Gerald Meerschaert.
Expecting a fan-friendly, striking battle, Tavares anticipates little to no grappling offense from Silva. Even if the fight doesn’t go according to plan, Tavares believes he’s the better fighter in every aspect of mixed martial arts and envisions no outcome other than getting his hand raised.
“[Silva] is a guy that’s willing to go out there and strike,” Tavares said. “Usually, guys want to come out there and try to take me down or whatever, which I’m used to, you see it in my fights…I’m sure he’ll try to mix it in, but that’s not really his style and his forte.
“I’m just the superior fighter,” Tavares said. “I’m not taking anything away from Bruno, he’s tough and shown that in his Pereira fight that he can take a shot, he can withstand, but I think I bring more to the fight, and I think I’m going to show that Saturday night.”
UFC Fight Night: Pavlovich vs Blaydes took place live from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas on April 22, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!