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Graduation Day for Dione Barbosa


Dione Barbosa often embraces difficult choices. After all, she chose judo at the age of 7, left home as a teenager to pursue a higher level in the discipline, started to incorporate Brazilian jiu-jitsu training into her routine and eventually transitioned to mixed martial arts. Now, Barbosa gets a chance to reap some rewards for those decisions.

The Brazilian flyweight will make her Ultimate Fighting Championship debut opposite the unbeaten Ernesta Kareckaite as part of the UFC 301 undercard this Saturday at Farmasi Arena in Rio de Janeiro. Barbosa, 31, enters the cage on the strength of a three-fight winning streak, having punched her ticket to the UFC with a first-round armbar submission of Rainn Guerrero on Week 5 of Dana White’s Contender Series in September. The fact that she draws her first Octagon assignment in her homeland only strengthens her resolve.

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“To have the fans on my side only adds to my motivation,” Barbosa told Sherdog.com. “There’s no stress. I’m excited to be fighting on Brazilian soil again after some five years. I’m sure the other Brazilian fighters on the card share my sentiment. I originally came to the United States with the purpose of landing a UFC contract. This is a special moment for me.”

In her path stands Kareckaite, a former Hexagone MMA champion. The 25-year-old Lithuanian has won three fights in a row and joins the UFC roster on the heels of a split decision victory over Carli Judice during Week 8 of DWCS on Sept. 16. A draw with Laetitia Blot in October 2021, which was later avenged, remains the only blemish on the Kareckaite resume.

“She’s a very tough athlete,” Barbosa said. “She’s young and comes from a striking background, which is different from my style. We’ve watched her videos and studied her. I prefer not to do too much of that, to be honest. My entire team has been helping shape my game to deal well with what we expect her to bring. I think it will be an interesting fight. I enjoy striking, and I wish to test myself there. She’s long, so I have to be patient in finding ways to cut the distance and possibly use my grappling. It’s going to be a good fight, a styles clash. I also wish to test my muay thai. I’ve been working on that. I’ve improved a lot.”

Barbosa operates out of the Kings MMA camp fronted by Rafael Cordeiro in Huntington Beach, California. In addition to her work with Cordeiro, “The Witch” trained with Ricardo Dias and Philipe “Furao” Della Monica in advance of her showdown with Kareckaite. The magnitude of the moment has not been lost on Barbosa.

“This is the first step on my UFC journey,” she said. “I can’t think about the future until my current mission is accomplished. To land a UFC contract and to fight in Rio, I couldn’t be happier. I’m happy, motivated and ready.”
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