Livia Renata Souza (11-1) makes her UFC debut at this weekend’s UFC Fight Night: Santos vs. Anders in São Paulo, Brazil. Souza, who is a former Invicta strawweight champion, is matched against the Australian veteran and TUF alum Alex Chambers (5-4).
‘Livinha’ was originally scheduled to face Jessica Aguilar at UFC Fight Night Austin back in February, but a broken hand forced the Brazilian to withdraw. It was a frustrating bump in the road for Souza, who had been itching to join the UFC over the last couple of years.
After going undefeated on the Brazilian regional scene Souza joined Invicta FC in 2015. In her first Invicta fight the BJJ black-belt taped Katja Kankaanpaa with a triangle choke. It was her seventh submission win in eight fights. That set up a clash with future UFC/TUF vet DeAnna Bennett for the Invicta strawweight championship.
In 2016 Souza demolished Bennett in under two minutes, winning via TKO thanks to a crushing body kick and follow-up punches. In her first title defense she faced Angela Hill who is now a top 15 ranked strawweight in the UFC. A hard fought battle ended in a split decision loss to ‘Overkill’.
After a year long break Souza returned to action last March to take on Invicta’s atomweight champ Ayaka Hamasaki. Souza impressed against the highly touted Hamasaki, knocking her out with a punch in the first round. Prior to that defeat Hamasaki’s only loss in 15 fights was to perennial UFC title challenger Claudia Gadelha. Souza added another Invicta victory to her record — against Janaisa Morandin — before getting signed to the UFC in late 2017.
“It’s a great time,” said Souza to Bloody Elbow of her impending UFC debut. “It’s my time. I’m very prepared to fight in the UFC and I’ll fight anyone, I don’t care who my opponent is. I’ll always do my best and win the fight, like I did in Invicta.”
Souza, who seemed to have put the Hill loss out of her mind, was full of praise for Saturday’s opponent. She called Chambers, “an experienced fighter and a great fighter”.
“She’s fought a lot of times in the UFC,” continued Souza. “She’s felt the anticipation and the vibrations of the Octagon, but she’s not fought me. And I’m going to do my best and, like I always say, I’m fighting for glory or death.”
Though she respects Chambers, Souza said she is beyond confident that she will defeat her this weekend. “I don’t have the option to lose,” she claimed. “I can’t lose. That’s my division, that’s my dream, that’s my belt. This will be a Brazilian war. I come to war, I tell my friends and my coaches, I go to kill. I’m like a sniper. One shot.”
Souza’s confidence in being able to finish Chambers with ‘one shot’ comes from her belief that she is now a ‘complete fighter.’ Souza admitted that in her early career she was merely a ‘Brazilian jiu jitsu fighter’.
“I was always searching for takedowns and was looking for submissions to finish my fights. But now, I think I’m really complete. I’ve improved my striking game, my takedowns, because the UFC is the highest level in the world when it comes to martial arts and now I think I’m an MMA fighter. I’ve proved with DeAnna Bennett. I’ve proved with Hamasaki and Janaisa, too; because that was a hard fight.”
Though she said she was ‘very dangerous’ on the feet, Souza admitted that her BJJ was still the best weapon in her arsenal. But regardless if it’s through striking or grappling, Souza said she is intent on putting on a good show for UFC fans in São Paulo’s Ginásio do Ibirapuera.
Souza lives in Araraquara, a city in the countryside of São Paulo state. It’s approximately two and half hour’s drive from the arena she’ll be fighting on Saturday.
This weekend’s card is the seventh event to be held in São Paulo. The city housed the UFC’s first trip to Brazil in 1998, which featured Frank Shamrock, Pat Miletich, Vitor Belfort, and Wanderlei Silva. The city also hosted Belfort vs. Michael Bisping in 2013 and Belfort vs. Dan Henderson in 2015.
Souza said she watched all these events with her father and imagined following in Belfort’s, and others’, footsteps. “I’ve always dreamed to fight in São Paulo with the UFC and I know it’s a great opportunity the UFC has given me. There are great fighters on this card, like ‘Minotouro’ [Nogueira], Thiago ‘Marreta’ [Santos], Alex ‘Cowboy’ [Oliveira]. They are all great UFC stars. The UFC have given me a chance and I’ll do my best to deliver the best show to the crowd and the UFC, too.”
You can see if Souza delivers on her promise to entertain by tuning in to UFC Fight Pass on Saturday night. Livia Renata Souza vs. Alex Chambers opens the show at 6:45pm ET. UFC Fight Night São Paulo is headlined by Thiago Santos vs. Eryk Anders (after Jimi Manuwa was removed from the card due to injury).