Antonio Braga Neto has a few things working in his favor for his UFC debut today.
Neto (8-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC) meets Anthony Smith (17-9 MMA, 0-0 UFC) to open up the card at UFC on FUEL TV 10. And yeah, maybe he’s thinking a little about a home-cage advantage in his native Brazil, and maybe he’s thinking about his family being there to see his first UFC fight and maybe he’s thinking about his jiu-jitsu accolades and where that might factor in the fight.
But more than anything, he’s kind of thinking about death – because that, he said, is what it will take for Smith to upset him.
UFC on FUEL TV 10 takes place at Paulo Sarasate Arena in Fortaleza, Ceara, Brazil. Neto and Smith make their UFC debuts on the Facebook-streamed preliminary card ahead of the main card on FUEL TV.
“It will be very difficult for Anthony Smith to defeat me,” Neto told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com). “He’d have to kill me first.”
Strong words, to be certain. But hyperbole almost always has a place in MMA.
Neto signed with the UFC on the strength of a three-fight win streak, including submissions of UFC veterans Maiquel Falcao and Brock Larson. But his most recent win, a kneebar stoppage of Larson, came 15 months ago.
When the offer came, Neto saw a dream about to come true.
“It was actually quite unexpected,” he said. “They offered me a contract and I was quite happy to accept it. I wasn’t actively seeking a contract and had no pretensions about fighting in the UFC yet. I thought I still needed a few more fights under my belt. I feel this is a great achievement.
“My goal was always the UFC. I had no interest in long-term contracts with secondary organizations. The only one I cared to get into was the UFC.”
Along with that great achievement, he’s got plenty of achievements in the world of jiu-jitsu, winning multiple gold medals at the World Jiu-Jitsu Championship and Pan American Championship.
And his ground game is where he believes he has the edge over Smith, who never has gone the distance in 26 career fights. Although Smith has been submitted just twice in his nine losses, one came in January at Strikeforce’s finale against Roger Gracie.
“I’m highly confident in my jiu-jitsu,” Neto said. “I believe jiu-jitsu is the world’s best personal defense method. Since I’ve been training my ground game since 4 years old, I believe I can submit anyone in MMA.
“I think this is a great matchup for me. It’s an excellent fight. We both move forward. I aim to get the ‘Submission of the Night’ or ‘Fight of the Night’ bonus. I think he’s a great fighter everywhere and I’m ready for that, no matter where it goes. I’ll be looking to finish the fight as quickly as possible.”
Neto is more than a 2-to-1 favorite against Smith. And if he does get that finish, he’ll be doing it in front of plenty of family and his home-country crowd.
But that’s not what’s giving Neto his mental edge going into the fight.
“It’s nice,” Neto said, “but confidence comes from training. I think being nervous is a byproduct of not training properly. I did everything I could have done during my camp. That’s why I am calm before this bout.”
For the latest on UFC on FUEL TV 10, stay tuned to the UFC Rumors section of the site.
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