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You can't always get what you want – but, with his UFC-Japan opponent, Jussier Formiga did

UFC flyweight Jussier Formiga might be coming off a loss, but other than that, he has very few reasons to complain.

Formiga (19-5 MMA, 5-4 UFC) meets Ulka Sasaki (20-4-2 MMA, 3-3 UFC) on Friday at UFC Fight Night 117, looking to rebound from a loss to Ray Borg in March. Like what happened when the Brazilian dropped a split decision to ex-title-challenger Henry Cejudo in 2015, Formiga’s loss to Borg came at a key time for a possible title push.

Incidentally, by getting a second straight win with the unanimous decision over Formiga, it was Borg who got a later-canceled UFC 215 title shot against kingpin Demetrious Johnson.

Formiga was, understandably, upset with the loss – for a little while. Then, he picked himself back up. Now he has quite a few reasons to feel motivated by the conditions of his approaching matchup.

“I asked for this fight,” Formiga told MMAjunkie ahead of the preliminary-card bout, which airs live on FXX from Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan, near Tokyo. “I watched Sasaki’s last fight with (Justin) Scoggins – who was winning before Sasaki submitted him. I was excited about his fighting style. He’s good grappler who can handle himself on the ground.

“I asked the UFC for the fight, and thankfully they made it happen in Japan. I’m very excited. The battle continues. My goal is beating him, who comes off a win, and make my way back to the elite squad.”

Getting his wish of opponent granted, however, isn’t Formiga’s only cause for celebration. While some fighters are not exactly thrilled by the idea of traveling halfway across the world for a fight, Formiga is happy with his return to grounds that proved successful once.

Formiga, then an undefeated up-and-comer who’d had all of his six pro bouts in Brazil, met Shooto’s 123-pound world champion Shinichi Kojima in Tokyo in 2009. He  pulled off an upset then, walking away with an unanimous decision.

So it makes sense when Formiga says that, rather than intimidated, he’s simply all the more motivated by unfavorable conditions.

“The guys I beat in the UFC – I was always the underdog,” Formiga said. “And I love it. Rest assured it won’t affect me one bit. He’ll be fighting at home, with his crowd, but I like these challenges. I like going to my opponents’ homes and try to get the better of them and do my work.”

Formiga, who currently sits in the No. 6 in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA flyweight rankings, has gone 1-2 in his past three octagon outings – with a unanimous decision win over Dustin Ortiz between the losses to top contenders Cejudo and Borg.

Sasaki, in turn, enters the bout with a most recent 2-1 UFC record –  a loss to former title challenger Wilson Reis sandwiched between the “Performance of the Night” over Scoggins and yet another submission over Willie Gates.

Clearly, Formiga isn’t dealing with a novice on the ground. Good thing, then, that that’s exactly why the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt wanted the meeting in the first place.

“I see him as a great athlete,” Formiga said. “He has a very unique game. He strikes, he’s very big for the division, and he can hold his own on the ground. He’s a good grappler.

“He likes doing a similar game than mine – moving on to the back. But that’s exactly why I asked for the fight.”

For more on UFC Fight Night 117, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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