Raoni Barcelos returns against Chris Gutierrez at the TUF 28 Finale card in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Nov. 30. However, according to the Brazilian, that was not the original opponent for his bantamweight debut. In fact, that’s not even the card he was supposed to be fighting on next.
The 33-year-old Brazilian told MMA Fighting ahead of Friday’s event that he was offered three different opponents for his next bout, including one at UFC Adelaide — scheduled for the following night in Australia — but was having a hard time getting a fight booked.
”I had three different opponents that fell through,” Barcelos said. “I was going to fight one fighter in Adelaide, but I don’t know what happened. And then I was going to fight Khabib’s cousin (Said Nurmagomedov), but he got injured. And then Boston Salmon, who I was scheduled to fight in my debut in Brazil, but he turned it down, so they signed this guy to fight me.”
So many change of opponents didn’t really surprise Barcelos or his coach Pedro Rizzo, especially after a knockout victory over featherweight Kurt Holobaugh in his Octagon debut in July. But he doesn’t blame any single one of those fighters for turning down a fight with him in Adelaide or Las Vegas.
”It really is a bit complicated,” Barcelos said. “If it was up to me, I think I would also turn it down because it was on short notice and I did a great job in my debut, showed I have a true potential to be at the top. I knew that would happen, Pedro told me the same thing. Managers will probably think twice before agreeing to fight me.
”But at the same time it’s good because I can fight a top 10, a top 5, someone ranked, someone tough, and move up the rankings faster. Not that this guy isn’t tough, but face someone with a big name already.”
Gutierrez, 12-2-1 as a professional mixed martial artist, agreed to sign with the UFC and meet Barcelos in Las Vegas, but the Brazilian thinks “I can knock him out if my hand lands, and I can take him down and submit him.”
TUF 28 Finale will mark the Brazilian’s first cut to bantamweight after 12 wins in 13 professional bouts, and the decision to cut an extra 10 pounds was made a long time ago.
Barcelos kept his weight low after his victorious UFC debut, staying around 158 pounds instead of going back up to 176 pounds when he was out of camp. Seven days before the fight, Barcelos weighed 145 pounds for his last sparring session, and felt great.
”It’s too crowded at 145, there are some guys cutting too much weight to compete there, so it would be tougher for me to get to the title,” Barcelos said. “I was having some difficulties with the reach and height difference, so we decided to drop to 135 and see how I feel, if I would have the same strength and performance. Why not give it a try?
”We never truly know how it will go, a fight is a fight. I hope I’ll recover well and have the same energy and do a good job and put on a show for the crowd, like I always do.”
The UFC event is set for The Pearl at the Palms in Las Vegas and airs live on FOX Sports 1. The preliminary portion of the show, which features Barcelos vs. Gutierrez, will be streamed live on UFC Fight Pass.