Cezar Ferreira and Nate Marquardt are set to fight at Saturday’s UFC Norfolk event, but that won’t be the first time they meet in a cage.
“Mutante” flew to Las Vegas to help his longtime friend Vitor Belfort prepare for his middleweight bout with Anthony Johnson in the final months of 2011, and he ended up under the same roof with the likes of Georges St-Pierre and Marquardt.
Ferreira went on to join the UFC in 2013, winning the first season of TUF Brazil, while “The Great” went on to sign with Strikeforce and become welterweight champion. Little they know that they would compete against each other inside the Octagon almost six years later.
“We trained for a few weeks, some sparring and technical training, when he went to Las Vegas to train,” Ferreira told MMA Fighting. “Vitor (Belfort) was getting ready to fight Anthony Johnson, and he went there with (Georges) St-Pierre to train as well.
“I don’t think it helps much, though. Five years is enough time for someone to change completely. I took into consideration what he did in his last four fights, where he faced southpaws. He hasn’t changed much in those fights, so we have a good strategy to go there and wait for him to make a mistake and we beat him.”
Marquardt and Ferreira are in opposite places in their UFC careers right now. The American middleweight has only won one of his last four and two of his last seven UFC fights, while “Mutante” is 3-1 over his last four.
“I don’t think I lost that fight against (Elias) Theodorou,” Ferreira said of his close decision loss at UFC Halifax in February. “So I expected a big name next. I believe I won my last four fights, so I deserve to fight the best. Nate is a former Strikeforce champion and deserves my respect. I’m ready to go there to do my job and win.”
Ferreira stopped all of his opponents before his run on The Ultimate Fighter, but has only finished two of his fights after the reality show, submitting Thiago Santos and Jack Hermansson.
“I’m capable of finishing anyone in this division, but I never expect a quick win,” Ferreira said. “We prepare for the worst, for a war, to work hard on fight night and overcome a lot. That’s what I train for. I expect the best from him.
“He’s not in a good moment in his career,” he continued, “but some athletes see that as a motivation, as fuel to come back better and stronger. I’m ready for the best Nate, the one that became Strikeforce champion.”
“Mutante” celebrated the fifth anniversary of his TUF Finale win over Sergio Moraes in June, and reflected back on the ups and downs he’s gone through since that night in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
“This is my 11th fight in the UFC, and I have evolved a lot technically,” Ferreira said. “A lot of things happened in my career since I was in The Ultimate Fighter house. I had a lot of injuries, came close to retiring after one of the surgeries I did, but life is made of situations to overcome.
“The worst thing that can happen is to look back one day and realize that you could have done more, and I’m happy that I did that and I’m still competing at a high level, aiming at a chance to become champion. To do what you love is a privilege for few.”
With a win Saturday — the “fifth” in a row in his own books — “Mutante” hopes he’s booked against a top 15 middleweight next.
“That’s my goal,” he said. “I try not to think about it on fight week, I just want to beat him Saturday, but my goal is to fight the best and become champion. I don’t know how many fights I need, but I’m wiling to do whatever it takes to get there.”