JOINVILLE, Brazil – Seven months ago, Chris Camozzi stood in the tunnel of an arena in Rio de Janeiro as 17,000 Brazilian fans screamed obscenities at him. Fortunately for the UFC middleweight, he doesn’t speak Portuguese.
“We were getting ready to walk out (to the cage), and the fans were all hanging over the tunnel, yelling stuff at me,” Camozzi told USA TODAY Sports and MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com). “You could tell by their body language and stuff that what they were saying wasn’t positive. I have a Brazilian cornerman, and he was looking down and laughing because he knows everything they’re saying.
“He was like, ‘Uh, they’re cheering for you.’”
Camozzi (19-5 MMA, 6-2 UFC) tuned out the jeers at that evening’s UFC 153 event and earned a win by decision against Brazil’s Luiz Cane. Next, he’ll enter another hostile setting to face a more revered Brazilian, former Strikeforce champion Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza (17-3 MMA, 0-0 UFC). They meet in the co-headliner of Saturday’s “UFC on FX 8: Belfort vs. Rockhold” event (FX, 9 p.m. ET) at Arena Jaragua in Jaragua do Sul.
Souza is the third opponent Camozzi was asked to face at the event and clearly is the most talented of the group.
Still, Camozzi, 26, from Colorado, never hesitated when offered the chance to fight Souza, an eight-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion.
“Right when they told me, I was like, ‘Yeah, let’s do it,’” Camozzi said. “Why not? It’s a great opportunity. I’ve been asking for these (types of fights), and if you ask for an opportunity, you’ve got to take it. This is how some people have been built, off just being given one opportunity to shine, and they move up.”
A win would give Camozzi a five-fight winning streak (only two other fighters in the UFC’s 185-pound division can match that).
Camozzi is an honorable mention, just outside the top 15, in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie.com MMA middleweight rankings. However, a win against Souza, who is ranked No. 8, would give Camozzi a strong claim for top-10 status. Oddsmakers have pegged Souza as a 4-1 favorite, but Camozzi relishes his underdog role. And his team thinks he’s primed for a breakout victory.
“Perspective is everything in this sport and in this fight, for sure,” said Camozzi’s coach, Marc Montoya.
Camozzi again will be the enemy on Saturday, and Brazilian fans, regarded as some of the most rabid in MMA, again will be on his case. But Camozzi thinks fans around the world are due for a wake-up call.
“I’m looking to change a lot of minds,” Camozzi said. “Nobody is giving me a chance in this fight. “Afterward, it’s going to be nice to look at everybody and say, ‘I told you so.’”
For the latest on UFC on FX 8, stay tuned to the UFC Rumors section of the site.