Jussier Formiga has been pursuing a chance to fight for the UFC flyweight belt for over five years, and a win at UFC 229 might put him closer than ever to a championship bout.
Once considered the best 125-pounder in the world, in times where flyweights weren’t welcome in the Octagon, Formiga enters the eight-sided cage Saturday night in Las Vegas to battle Sergio Pettis hoping that the winner of this contest will be considered the next in line for the gold against Henry Cejudo.
Coming off submission wins over Ulka Sasaki and Ben Nguyen in enemy territory, Formiga told MMA Fighting he was a back-up plan in case something happened to either Cejudo or Demetrious Johnson in their championship bout at UFC 227 on Aug. 4.
Formiga kept his weight low, but both flyweight stars made it to the Octagon in Los Angeles, where Cejudo made history by becoming the first 125-pounder to defeat “Mighty Mouse”.
”It wasn’t exactly official, but my coach offered me and the UFC accepted it,” Formiga told MMA Fighting. “We couldn’t tell the media, but we were on stand-by in case someone fell through and I would step in, but the fight ended up happening. They offered me Pettis right after and I obviously took it because I’m an employee and I have to fight.”
The UFC has done that in multiple occasions now, with fighters like Kamaru Usman, Thiago Santos and Ronaldo Souza stepping on the scale to serve as back-up plans for main events or championship bouts.
In his case, Formiga didn’t fly to Los Angeles and wasn’t paid by the promotion to stay ready. However, the Brazilian believes that the company’s willingness to give him a title shot under those circumstances indicates he could be next in line with an impressive victory at T-Mobile Arena.
”I think so, you can’t rule out that possibility. It’s a title eliminator bout,” Formiga said. “Sergio is coming off a big win over (Joseph) Benavidez, is ranked No. 2 in the division now, and I’m in No. 5. It’s a fight between two top 5, so the winner should be the next contender.”
Formiga and Pettis were originally scheduled to fight in Jan. 2017, but Formiga was forced out of the event with an injured foot. Earlier this year, after Pettis lost a decision to future-champion Cejudo, the Roufusport talent called out the Brazilian once again, but Formiga wasn’t interested.
It all changed in June, after Pettis scored the biggest win of his MMA career, a split-decision victory over Joseph Benavidez.
”We’ve been in collision course for a long time, and the moment has finally arrived,” Formiga said. “We’re heading to a fight.”
“(I will win) the fastest way possible. I will put on a great performance,” he continued. “I’m not going there to win, I’m going there to put on a great fight, like I’ve been doing in my last fights. Everyone sees me as this grappler that goes for submissions only, but many surprises can happen in this fight. He has a kickboxing background, but we’re fighting MMA and anything can happen.”