Leites Looks to Continue UFC Run

By Gleidson Venga Aug 23, 2007
Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Thales Leites (Pictures) returns to the UFC Saturday against Ryan Jensen (Pictures). Fighting on short notice, Leites took Travis Lutter (Pictures)'s place on the card after the "Ultimate Fighter" veteran sustained an injury in training. Promising a great performance, the Nova Uniao stalwart talked to Sherdog.com as he looks for his third win in the octagon.

Sherdog.com: When did the UFC invite you to replace Travis Lutter (Pictures) at UFC 74?
Thales Leites (Pictures): It happened 20 days ago. I came home, logged on my e-mail, and there was a message from my manager telling me I would be fighting on Aug. 25. I thought it was a joke, because I went to the official UFC Web site, and the card was full, and the event was very close to happening. I told him the card was complete, and asked him if he was sure about what he said. Then he told me I would be replacing Lutter, because he was injured.

Sherdog.com: Did you have time enough to train?
TL: Lucky for me, I was training already. I was not training to fight, but training as usual. Then, when I knew I would be fighting, I just pushed harder in my training. I will for sure be 100 percent ready for this fight.

Sherdog.com: And how is your training going now?
TL: It's awesome. I'm improving some things and fixing my game. My teammates "Shaolin" [Vitor Ribeiro (Pictures)], Leo Santos, Marcos Louro [Galvao] and Ronys Torres will all be fighting soon, so the guys in the gym are all mutually helping each other.

Sherdog.com: Do you know anything about your opponent?
TL: I've never seen him fight. I couldn't find anything about him, but he seems like a versatile fighter. He's won eight fights by submission, and he has three knockouts on his record, and he's never went to judges' decisions in his fights; that's a good thing, because it means it'll be a great fight.

Sherdog.com: He's won eight fights by submission. Do you think that means he's a good grappler?
TL: For sure. I heard he likes to use the triangle choke, but I will be ready for that.

Sherdog.com: I remember after your loss to Martin Kampmann (Pictures) in your UFC debut, you told me that you felt the pressure of fighting in the UFC for the first time. Now, after two wins in the octagon, how do you feel fighting there?
TL: Now, I feel like myself fighting in the octagon, comfortable and confident. I know I'm training hard enough to be there and there's always a way to improve, and that's what I'm looking for.

Sherdog.com: What points do you feel you've improved since your debut?
TL: I think I've improved my striking skills and my takedowns. I also improved my mind. That's what makes me more confident and calm when I fight now.

Sherdog.com: If you win this fight, how many fights do you think you'll have until you get a title shot?
TL: Frankly, I don't know. I just want to keep fighting and winning, and when UFC says, "This is your turn," I'll be ready. I'm always watching other fighters in my weight class, and there are a lot of tough guys there.

Sherdog.com: Do you think if you keep showing strong performances in the UFC, you will open doors for your teammates? And if you could point out any of them, who would it be?
TL: I hope so. I would be very happy if they called some Nova Uniao athletes to fight in the UFC. I would actually point all of them, because everybody trains together and all of them have potential to fight in any big event. The way we fight here is the same as they fight in the ring, and they are used to do it.

Sherdog.com: What can your fans expect in your fight on Saturday?
TL: They can expect the usual: a dedicated guy, focused and looking to fight and win. Never retreating, never surrendering.

Sherdog.com: Leave a message to everybody who's looking to cheer for you.
TL: To everybody on Sherdog, thanks for the support. I'm walking into another battle and I hope to win. Check on my new Web site, www.thalesleites.com. Thanks to everybody, and God bless you all.
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