Diego Brandao switched training camps ahead of UFC Fight Night in Dublin. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
The Ultimate Fighting Championship has major plans for Conor McGregor, and Diego Brandao would like nothing more than to spoil them.
Brandao will confront the charismatic Irishman in the UFC Fight Night “McGregor vs. Brandao” headliner on Saturday at The O2 in Dublin, as he looks to capitalize on the opportunity that was afforded to him when Cole Miller bowed out of the event with an injury. The Brazilian is no fan of McGregor’s in-your-face bravado.
“I don’t even know what kind of person he is,” Brandao said during the UFC “Countdown” show. “He confuses me a lot. He’s a fighter but he talks like a clown, so I don’t know what kind of person he is. I’m just going to go there [and] kick his ass.”
In advance of the five-round fight, Brandao left the familiar confines of the Jackson-Wink MMA camp in Albuquerque, N.M., and relocated to Texas to train under Rodrigo Pinheiro.
“I came to San Antonio because I had different plans,” Brandao said. “Jackson’s gym was great for striking. Training was crazy there. I loved it, but living in Albuquerque by myself was too hard, so I decided to come back to San Antonio with my two brothers, who have lived here for a long time. My mind, my body, I’m very prepared for this fight.”
One of the UFC’s top international draws, McGregor will see action for the first time since undergoing reconstructive knee surgery for an ACL tear. The former two-division Cage Warriors Fighting Championship titleholder has won 10 consecutive fights, nine of them finishes. McGregor last appeared at UFC Fight Night “Shogun vs. Sonnen” in August, when he took a unanimous decision from Max Holloway at the TD Garden in Boston.
Brandao believes he has the tools to spring the upset.
“I don’t think he can beat me,” he said. “I have jiu-jitsu. I have wrestling. We are going to test him. If he tries to beat me up [standing], it’s OK. I’ll take him down because I know I can take him down, for sure. I learn jiu-jitsu every day, study jiu-jitsu every single day, three times a day. I have more skills. I can beat him.”
Brandao, 27, had won three fights in a row prior to his knockout defeat to Dustin Poirier at UFC 163 in December. “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 14 winner has secured 14 of his 18 professional victories by knockout, technical knockout or submission. He hopes to add McGregor to his list of victims.
“I like to fight aggressively,” Brandao said. “I like to finish. I like to move forward. I like to look in the eye of my opponent. I like to make him quit.”
Zak Cummings can see the considerable hurdle placed before him.
“The Ultimate Fighter” Season 17 qualifier will put his four-fight winning streak on the line when he meets the unbeaten Gunnar Nelson in the UFC Fight Night “McGregor vs. Brandao” co-main event. Cummings, 29, handed Yan Cabral his first professional loss in May, earning a unanimous decision over the Nova Uniao-trained Brazilian.
Nelson has rattled off 12 straight victories, three of them inside the UFC’s Octagon. A Renzo Gracie protégé, the 25-year-old Icelandic grappling ace returned from a year-long hiatus at UFC Fight Night “Gustafsson vs. Manuwa” in March, when he submitted Omari Akhmedov with a first-round guillotine choke.
“Gunnar comes off as a stone-cold killer to me,” Cummings said in his pre-fight interview with UFC.com. “He’s quiet. He flies under the radar in the U.S., even though he is very well-known over in Europe, but he goes out and performs in an impressive fashion. Once again, I feel most people will be counting me out of this fight just as they did in the last one. I know I belong at the top of the division, and Gunnar is who I get to prove that through.”
THIS & THAT
UFC Fight Night “McGregor vs. Brandao” will be the 282nd event the Ultimate Fighting Championship has staged in its history ... American Top Team’s Brad Pickett has drawn seven post-fight performance bonuses totaling $290,000 in 11 appearances under the UFC and World Extreme Cagefighting banners ... The four men to whom former Tachi Palace Fights flyweight champion Ian McCall has lost -- Charlie Valencia, Dominick Cruz, Demetrious Johnson -- own a cumulative 71-14-1 record ... Japan’s Naoyuki Kotani has executed 25 submissions in his career: 10 by armbar, four by heel hook, two by rear-naked choke, two by kimura and one each by kneebar, guillotine choke, leg scissor choke, ankle lock, toe hold, triangle choke and triangle armbar ... “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 19 graduate Mike King earned a bachelor’s degree in exercise physiology from Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio ... English flyweight Phil Harris has not lost a decision in more than 10 years ... Chris Dempsey was a two-time NCAA All-American wrestler at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown ... Twelve of Strikeforce veteran Trevor Smith’s 16 career bouts -- nine of his 11 wins and three of his five losses -- have ended inside one round ... Cody Donovan holds the rank of black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under former middleweight King of Pancrase Nate Marquardt ... Josh Sampo and Patrick Holohan have combined for 13 submissions in 20 victories between them.