Dhiego Lima has finished all six of his opponents. | Photo: Charles Penner/CombatCaptured
Elite-level mixed martial artists earn enough money from fighting and sponsorships to where they do not need to hold down a second job to make ends meet. Welterweight prospect Dhiego Lima may not be there but, with the way his career has started, it will not be long until he arrives.
Lima -- the younger brother of former Maximum Fighting Championship titleholder and Bellator Fighting Championships tournament winner Douglas Lima -- has won his first six professional fights, two by knockout and four by submission.
“I met him four years ago, and he’d had one fight,” said Lima’s trainer, UFC veteran Roan Carneiro. “We got to rolling on the mat, and he was really aggressive. He didn’t give a [crap] about who I was or where I’d been. I told him that he was really talented and [needed to] be a pro fighter. This kid is the real deal and no joke.”
Carneiro believes a strong work ethic and resilience are two of Lima’s top traits right now.
“He really works, and when he trains, he pushes hard,” said Carneiro. “He’s very mentally tough. It doesn’t matter where the fight is, standing up or on the ground, he has a very powerful mind, and if he’s in a difficult position, he’ll just take his time and reverse it. No matter what position the fight is in, you can’t tell a difference in him.”
With four submissions among his six victories, it is not surprising that Lima points to his ground game as one of his strong points. However, the part of the sport most fighters detest -- conditioning -- is something on which Lima enjoys perfecting.
“I think I’m pretty good at my ground game,” said Lima. “I’m very comfortable on the ground, and I also take my conditioning very seriously. I don’t like getting tired, and, to me, the longer a fight goes, the better I’ll get.”
As for what part of his game still needs the most work, Lima chose his wrestling.
“As for my wrestling, a lot of guys who get into MMA did it in college and high school, and it’s something I’m working hard on,” he said. “I want to get to the point where I feel like I can take anybody down.”
Lima, who turns 22 later this month, works five days a week in the lumber department at a Home Depot location outside of Atlanta and trains when he is not working. A typical day starts early, with Lima helping his kids get ready for school, training in the morning, going to work in the afternoon, coming home in the evening and doing conditioning on his own. Juggling a job, family and budding MMA career can be a daunting task, but Lima said his employers have remained understanding.
“My boss at Home Depot loves MMA,” said Lima, who trains out of American Top Team Atlanta. “Most of my customers know I’m a fighter, too. It’s really fun. My boss works around my schedule and asks me what days I need off if I have a fight coming up. He knows I’ll be right back there working as soon as my fight gets done. All of my co-workers have been following my career since I was an amateur, so they all know I’m a fighter.”
Like all up-and-coming fighters, Lima’s long-term goal is to compete in the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
“I want to get to the UFC,” he said. “That’s the one thing that I really want to do. I have a contract with the MFC right now, but I hope at this time next year to be 10-0 or 11-0 and having [UFC President] Dana White looking at me. I’m determined and I want to be able to do that, for me and for my family so that I don’t have to work full-time.”
In his last fight, Lima knocked out Jamie Toney in the first round of an MFC card in June. With six wins in his first 16 months as a professional, another fight might have been expected in short order. However, an injury kept Lima on the sidelines for the rest of 2011.
“I’ve had a pretty long layoff,” said Lima, who was born in Brazil and came to the United States when he was 11 years old. “I was supposed to fight a couple months ago, but I got hurt. I separated the cartilage from my ribs. It’s one of those injuries where you can’t do anything. You just have to wait, but, to be honest, I needed the layoff. Between working full-time at Home Depot, my wife and two kids at home and fighting, things can be hectic, and if I can’t prepare 100 percent for a fight, I don’t want it.”
Lima will be back in action on Friday at MFC 32 “Bitter Rivals” in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, where he will take on Strikeforce veteran Nathan Coy. A replacement for the injured Bruno Carvalho, Coy last fought in October, when he took a unanimous decision from Patrick Mikesz under the Warrior-1 MMA banner. The 33-year-old holds victories over current UFC welterweights Mike Pierce and Rick Story.
Carneiro thinks it is only a matter of time before Lima has an impact at the highest level.
“I’m not really Dhiego’s mentor or coach,” said Carneiro. “We’re more like brothers. We’ve got a lot of respect for each other, and I really think Dhiego is going to impress the world like his brother has.”
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