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Luana Pinheiro: A Studious Warrior


Luana Pinheiro quietly snuck into the Top 10 in the Ultimate Fighting Championship women’s strawweight division. Now, the heavy lifting begins.

The 30-year-old Brazilian will put her career-best nine-fight winning streak on the line when she meets Amanda Ribas in a featured UFC Fight Night 232 attraction on Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. A 2020 Dana White’s Contender Series graduate, Pinheiro owns a 3-0 record inside the Octagon and looks to take the next step in her development in her latest assignment.

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“I’ve been in MMA for a good amount of time,” she told Sherdog.com. “Every day, I seek to continue my evolution. Every fight, every challenge, makes me get better. We study my opponents, their strong points, and what I can use to destroy their game. I feel that I’m a complete MMA fighter. It used to be a challenge for me coming from judo, but I feel very comfortable striking.”

Pinheiro last appeared at UFC 287, where she eked out a contentious split decision over former Invicta Fighting Championships titleholder Michelle Waterson-Gomez on April 8. Some viewed the outcome as controversial. Not Pinheiro.

“I’m a fighter, not a judge,” she said. “I believe that I won since I inflicted more damage and came closer to getting a finish. I chased her the entire time. I feel the decision was correct. I won that fight.”

Ribas poses a significant threat. The ex-Jungle Fight champion returns to the 115-pound weight class after drawing mixed reviews as a flyweight. Ribas last fought on June 24, when she bowed to punches and elbows from Maycee Barber in the second round of their UFC on ABC 5 pairing. Pinheiro knows her well.

“I’ve always followed Amanda’s career,” she said. “We used to be judo training partners. Since Amanda moved on to MMA, I’ve always followed her as a colleague. I rooted for her. Now that I’m facing her, we’re studying her more closely. There are no easy fights in the UFC. That’s where the best fighters in the world are. I expect that each opponent will be tougher than the last. I see weapons of mine that I can use against her. I expect to be able to give my best performance yet since this will be my first fight [in the UFC] with no injuries.”

Pinheiro, who has not lost a fight in nearly seven years, once again spent her preparation at Nova Uniao in Rio de Janeiro, where she trains under longtime mentor Andre Pederneiras.

“We have very intensive training sessions,” she said. “We have a wide variety of training partners, and everything is very high-level. We work on wrestling, boxing, muay thai, kickboxing, jiu-jitsu and so on. I’m getting ready in the best way possible with very motivated training partners.”

Should Pinheiro get past Ribas, she figures to enter her 2024 campaign as a contender to watch in a women’s strawweight division currently ruled by two-time champion Weili Zhang.

“My aim is to win my next fight, this next challenge, and to climb up another step,” she said. “Little by little, I’ll be conquering my space, so I can have the title bout I’ve dreamed about.”
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