The ordering process for Ultimate Fighting Championship pay-per-views has changed: UFC 246 is only available on ESPN+ in the U.S.
Diego Ferreira now stares at the most significant opportunity of his career. No stranger to the big stage, the Brazilian will face former Ultimate Fighting Championship and World Extreme Cagefighting titleholder in a featured attraction at UFC 246 on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Ferreira admits he has looked up to Pettis for years. Getting the call for the fight was a moment he will not soon forget.
“For me, I’ve been looking to get to the rankings and get out there,” he told Sherdog.com. “For me, I can enjoy a fight. I’ve always looked for the tough fights. I’ve been following Anthony Pettis for a long time — since he was on the small promotions. When he goes to the UFC, it was like, ‘Damn.’ Then he got the title shot and he got the title and I was like, ‘Wow, that’s incredible.’ You can see his timing, and he puts on a show. For me, it’s special to get to fight a guy like that.”
Ferreira, 34, understands the challenge in front of him and believes the result will boil down to one factor: hunger.
“To get ready for this type of guy, you have to be hungrier than him,” he said. “I know he has a lot of tools and a lot of wins in the UFC. I think it’s going to be more of the ‘toughest fighter will win’-type fight.”
Pettis carries with him a diverse set of potent offensive skills.
“You have to be ready for everything with him, be ready for the kicks, the ground, punches, all terms of mixed of martial arts,” Ferreira said. “You have to be ready because you never know what he’s going to throw at you, and that’s why you have to be the hungrier guy.”
Ferreira knows a victory over Pettis would thrust him into a new competitive stratosphere. However, he wandered into early adversity in his most recent outing against Mairbek Taisumov and appeared to lose the first round in convincing fashion. Ferreira was undeterred, as he dug in his heels and found the inner drive he needed to earn a unanimous decision.
“I was happy to be there and fighting on a big event in Abu Dhabi,” he said. “Going through my mind, I was waiting for the punch. He’s going to try to hit you hard, and that’s what I have in the back of my mind at all times. He caught me in the first round. After that, I took over and put on the pressure. I was ready for everything, like the kicks and punches. He’s a knockout power fighter, and it was the only thing I was thinking when I was there.”
Ferreira’s tenure in the UFC started with a bang in 2014, as the former Legacy Fighting Championship titleholder posted back-to-back wins over Colton Smith and Ramsey Nijem. However, consecutive losses to Beneil Dariush and Dustin Poirier sapped his momentum and forced Ferreira to reinvent himself.
“I had to listen to my coaches and have fun in there, too,” he said. “I used to be a fighter that goes in there and do your thing and get out as soon as you can. Now, I want to be there and I want to have fun and enjoy 15 minutes of my life I’ve trained for for three months. I want to be there to enjoy it. I put on my show, and now that’s the mentality that takes me to this streak. Just have fun and enjoy it. It’s only 15 minutes of your life. Just have fun.”
The adjustment has worked wonders for Ferreira. Since his knockout defeat to Poirier in 2015, he has pieced together a five-fight winning streak. His list of victims: Taisumov, Rustam Khabilov, Kyle Nelson, Jared Gordon and Olivier Aubun-Mercier. Beating Pettis at an event headlined by McGregor-Cerrone would raise his profile to new heights.
“I just ask to fight,” Ferreira said. “When I see everybody wants to put me on a big card, it’s good. I’m a big fan of ‘Cowboy.’ This is my second event fighting on the same card as him. It’s pretty special for me. It is for people to see you, and I’m happy with that.”