Henry Cejudo dethroned Demetrious Johnson to become the UFC flyweight champion earlier this month, and Deiveson Figueiredo expects his reign to last as long as it takes for him to earn a chance at the gold.
Unbeaten as a mixed martial artist and 3-0 in the UFC, Figueiredo returns to action at Saturday night’s UFC Lincoln against No. 6 ranked John Moraga, and already has his eyes on Cejudo.
”Cejudo has arrived to make some noise in the division,” Figueiredo told MMA Fighting. “He took the belt away from someone really, really tough.”
”I expected that win from Cejudo. I saw qualities in him,” he continued. “He has evolved a lot after he got knocked out by Johnson, so I saw him winning. It had to be someone fighting like that to beat Demetrious. Take him down, stop his takedown, be more aggressive. Everybody else got in there already lost in their minds, scared of him.”
Asked if he expects Cejudo to start a long run as champion like Johnson, who broke Anderson Silva’s record for most consecutive title defenses in the UFC, Figueiredo has a bold prediction.
”He will be there for a while,” Figueiredo said, “but when I get there it will be a whole other story.”
It’s highly unlikely that a win over Moraga would put the Brazilian right into title contention, but it definitely moves him up in the flyweight hierarchy. In fact, the matchup is even better than Figueiredo’s original plans.
”I was asking for (Dustin) Ortiz but they gave me someone ranked higher than him, and I’ve trained really hard to put on a show,” Figueiredo said. “I truly believe that God has something wonderful planned for me in this division and in the UFC. I leave my future in his hands. We’ll see what he has planned for me.
”I’ve been fighting tough, undefeated opponents since the beginning. (The UFC is) testing me in all areas. First, I fought a striker. Then they put me against a wrestler. And then they put me against a jiu-jitsu guy who can also strike. And now they put me against Moraga, who’s a wrestler but doesn’t use that that much, he prefers to stand and bang like me.”
Figueiredo stopped Marco Antonio Beltran and Joseph Morales in the UFC, and scored a close decision win over Jarred Brooks in between. Moraga is also on a roll after winning three straight versus Ashkan Mokhtarian, Magomed Bibulatov and Wilson Reis. Figueiredo scored Moraga’s last bout as a win for Reis, but expects a tough match-up in Lincoln.
”I think he will try to surprise me on the feet. That’s where he’s at his best,” he said. “I don’t see him trying to take me down, but if he does, I can defend myself and catch him. I’m a versatile fighter everywhere. I don’t see many surprises in his game, and I have a surprise for him.”
Moraga has only been finished twice in 25 professional bouts, stopped in his losses to Demetrious Johnson and John Dodson, and “God of War” plans on joining the club Saturday.
”I trained hard to finish this fight in the first round,” Figueiredo said. “Moraga is my highest-ranked opponent so far so he must be the toughest one, but I’m ready to test myself against him in this fight.”