On November 16, the UFC returns to Sao Paulo, Brazil, with a Fight Night card featuring some of the nation’s more notable figures, such as Jacare Souza and Shogun Rua.
In the main event, Brazil’s own Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza will make his light heavyweight debut and will be attempting to break the curse of the middleweights when he challenges top-ranked Polish powerhouse Jan Blachowicz, who is fresh off a second-round knockout win over Luke Rockhold.
Another notable bout on the card is Mauricio “Shogun” Rua vs. Paul Craig. Shogun is one of the best fighters to ever come out of Brazil: he is a former Pride and UFC champion who holds victories over the likes of Alistair Overeem, Chuck Liddell, and Lyoto Machida. He was originally set to face Sam Alvey, however, an injury forced the American to withdraw and in stepped Paul Craig, a dangerous submission expert from Scotland. This will be the co-main event of the evening.
Also fighting on November 16 is Brazilian native Antonio Arroyo (9-2), a middleweight finisher who will be making his UFC debut. The 30-year-old spoke to The Body Lock’s John Hyon Ko about his upcoming bout and fighting alongside legends such as Shogun Rua.
Four opponents, one job
In July, Antonio Arroyo appeared on Dana White’s Contender Series for the second time, this time in the United States, against knockout specialist Stephen Regman. The Brazilian took control of his opponent, sunk in the arm-triangle choke late in the second round, and was awarded a UFC contract for his efforts. Although he got the finish, it did not come without adversity.
“He really studied my game,” Arroyo said.
“One moment that was awkward for me was when I tried a spinning kick and he countered it and put me down. That was an awkward part but the guy was ready you know, he was ready to go so I can’t be sad about it.”
As previously mentioned, this was not the first time Arroyo had appeared on the Contender Series. A year earlier he fought on the Brazilian version of the show, winning his fight via unanimous decision. Despite grabbing the win, his performance was not impressive enough in the eyes of UFC President Dana White, and he was not offered a contract.
When asked which appearance gave him the most exposure, Arroyo gave clear points as to why his latest Contender Series win elevated his social media platform.
“Instagram wise, I got way, way more followers on the American show; I got like 2,000 almost instantly. Last year, it wasn’t like that, maybe because I didn’t get the contract. They showed on open TV in Brazil this year, but my fight they didn’t show because I didn’t get the contract.”
On November 16, Arroyo was originally scheduled to face Kevin Holland. However, Holland was removed from the card and was later replaced by fellow Brazilian and Contender Series veteran Andre Muniz.
The 30-year-old described the rigorous process of finding an opponent to John Hyon Ko.
“The first one was him [Holland] and they needed him for another card. They asked me about it and I said ‘okay I’ll let him go, just give me another guy, or whatever.'”
“And they gave me Trevin Giles: ‘You’re going to fight Trevin Giles.’ But two days later, ‘no, he’s not going to fight you.’ And then Alessio stepped in, but he didn’t stay too long, apparently, he has some shoulder injury. Finally, we decided on Andre Muniz because he’s Brazilian, he doesn’t need a visa and its way easier to get a Brazilian fighter on short notice to fight in Brazil.”
The middleweight is pleased to have finally found an opponent for his UFC debut but is slightly disappointed that it is against another Brazilian, as he was looking forward to the support from the home crowd.
“I didn’t want to fight a Brazilian in my debut. I was wishing to fight some foreign guy so I could have the people cheering for me, exclusively, the Brazilians cheering for the Brazilian guy. But it doesn’t change too much.”
Arroyo’s opponent on November 16 is Andre Muniz, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt with 12 submission victories to his name. It’s the classic striker vs grappler matchup, and as we’ve learned over the years, it can go either way.
“He’s a jiu-jitsu black belt but that’s the only concern,” Arroyo told John Hyon Ko.
“I have already made the arrangements in my gameplan to avoid that. I don’t have to exchange on the ground with him if I don’t have to. I don’t want to if I don’t have to, but if I have to, that’s okay, too. But I’m preparing to keep the fight standing where I’m more comfortable.”
While inside the octagon, the Brazilian is an avid kicker, meaning he likes to use his kicks to keep his opponent on the outside and do damage. He stated that his Karate-based kicking style was directly influenced by former UFC champion Lyoto Machida, who was known for his devasting head kicks.
“In my last fight, they were devastating. In my first fight in the Contender Series Brazil, they worked there too, they helped me a lot. Kicks were always a thing for me, not only from Muay Thai but from Karate, too. I started training by watching Lyoto Machida fight. Lyoto Machida is from the same city as me, and he is a great kicker, so there was a little bit of inspiration from him.”
Now that his fight is only a matter of weeks away, it has just hit Antonio Arroyo that he could potentially be sharing a locker room with some of his idols, such as Shogun Rua and Jacare Souza.
He grew up watching these legends on the big screen, who reminded the world time and time again that Brazilian mixed martial arts is a force to be reckoned with.
“I’m just realizing it now as I’m getting closer to the fights that I will be over there in the same corner as those guys that I have been watching for all those years.
“I’ve never met those guys in person, I hope it doesn’t get me too excited. But that’s going to be insane to be close to those guys.”
Steven specialises in MMA and Lethwei. He loves a good 1-2 down the middle.