It’s been a long time, but Johnny Eduardo is finally inside the Octagon.
UFC was on Fuel TV the last time Eduardo fought to a decision against Jeff Curran. Two years and a couple fights canceled later, the Nova Uniao bantamweight returns to the cage Saturday night.
"I’m anxious and a little nervous to get back in there," Eduardo told MMAFighting.com. "It doesn’t matter how many fights you fought, you always get a little anxious before a fight, but I’m controlling that to use it in my favor."
Eduardo meets top ranked Eddie Wineland at UFC Fight Night 40 in Cincinnati, Ohio, but the long layoff doesn’t bother him.
"Some people ask me if the time off is going to be a problem, but that’s exactly the opposite," he said. "This time off made me realize what I had to fix and change as an athlete to continue working in the UFC. I’m looking forward to get there to work.
"I do this since I was a little kid. I really needed to work on some aspects in my time. It’s time to go to war. I’m ready."
Many fans were surprised when the match-up was announced, and the Brazilian wasn’t expecting to face Wineland in his return.
"I always wanted to fight the best in my division," he said. "I want to kill a lion a day."
"I heard some people say this is the fight of my life, but it’s not," he continued. "Fighting is my life. I can call 15 minutes my life. I’ve fought opponents that are tougher than Wineland. I know that Wineland is tough, but he needs to know he’s fighting a tough and well-rounded fighter."
Several injuries forced Eduardo out of UFC bouts with Michael McDonald, Yves Jabouin and Lucas Martins in 2011 and 2013, so he changed his training to avoid them.
"My camp was stronger than the last ones," he said. "I focused on the physical conditioning, something that I want to use a lot in this fight. I’m a striker and I’m always hungry to stand and fight, but I also have other weapons. I’m a MMA fighter and I will go for the win anywhere."
Wineland bounced back to the win column in January after a TKO loss to bantamweight champion Renan Barao. Eduardo, a teammate of Barao at Nova Uniao in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, got some tips from his friend and training partner.
"He gave me some great tips, but I’ve been around for a long time and I know that every fight is different," he said. "Wineland’s game for Barao is going to be different than his strategy for me. Barao gave some great information and I will get in there to win.
"It’s a tough fight and I will be ready to fight three rounds, but we are strikers and our styles are based on surprises, so we will go for the knockout the whole time. It’s going to be a great fight."