Of Raoni Barcelos’ four losses as a professional mixed martial artist, none stung harder than his latest defeat inside the Octagon.
Back in January, Barcelos fought Umar Nurmagomedov, who is one of the most feared rising stars in the 135-pound weight class. That night, Nurmagomedov extended his undefeated record to 16-0 with a first-round knockout.
For the third time in four fights, Barcelos stood and watched his opponent get their hand raised. But in the famous words of Rocky Balboa, it's not about how hard you hit; It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.
The second Barcelos made it back into the gym one week after that loss, he decided that he needed to make a change.
“I’m really hungry [to fight],” Barcelos said. “I’ve been hungry since June. Way before that actually. A week after that loss to [Nurmagomedov], we went back to the drawing board, and we were eager to have another fight and perform again.”
All Barcelos could think about was getting back into the Octagon and putting the past behind him. The quickest he could find an opponent was in June against Dana White’s Contender Series alum Miles Johns. But bad would turn worse when Johns pulled out of the bout during fight week due to injury.
Despite flying back home to his native Brazil empty handed, Barcelos wasn’t deterred one bit. Taking his prototypical one week off after concluding a training camp, Barcelos kept at it in the gym until his name was called.
Shorty after Barcelos got back to Brazil, the UFC called offering him a fight sometime in August. While an official date wasn’t finalized until July, Barcelos eagerly accepted and began another training camp, still with the loss against Nurmagomedov looming in his mind.
This Saturday, Barcelos will finally get another chance to show fans what he’s made of at UFC Fight Night: Sandhagen vs Font in Nashville against Kyler Phillips, who showcased one of his best performances to date in February when he submitted Marcelo Rojo via triangle armbar.
Phillips was expected to take on Said Nurmagomedov, however, Nurmagomedov pulled out of the bout last month. While Barcelos is stepping in to take his place on only a couple weeks’ notice, the Brazilian has trained daily since his previous training camp in the spring and is more than ready to compete on Saturday night.
Not only that, but Barcelos has kept his original game plan for his bout against Johns and has only made a few tweaks with his coaches in preparation for Phillips. This means Barcelos has essentially had a three-month long training camp to get ready for Nashville.
“We kept the same game plan we were going to use in the other fight. We’ve just improved it. That was basically it. A lot of people don’t know that. They thought I took the fight on a 15-day notice, but that wasn’t the case. We’ve known about it since my last fight, that we’d possibly come back in August, either on the 12th or 19th. It’ll take place a week before, on the fifth, but we were already prepared for it.
“Each fight is different. Each opponent is completely different. I respect all of them, but I get in there with the same confidence and the same goal, which is to finish the fight. It’ll be no difference in this fight. I’m coming for the finish. I’m ready for that. I hope my opponent is ready so we can put on a show.”
UFC Fight Night: Sandhagen vs Font took place live from Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee on August 5, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!