This weekend, Figueiredo begins the next chapter of his career, defending his flyweight title for the first time against Alex Perez in the main event of UFC 255.
Initially scheduled to face former bantamweight titleholder Cody Garbrandt, the streaking Perez was elevated into the headlining pairing when “No Love” was forced out of the contest due to a torn biceps, and though the two have very different styles, the champion said nothing changed during his training camp.
“I didn’t change anything,” said Figueiredo, who made a shift to more of a boxing-style training camp focused expressly on his preparations ahead of his first meeting with Benavidez in February and has maintained the approach since. “The training is the same for Cody Garbrandt as it is for Alex Perez because I’m focused on speed and timing.”
Just as nothing changed in his training camp following the shift in opponents, the same is true about Figueiredo’s approach to his career now that he’s reached the flyweight summit.
Winning a championship can alter the way an athlete prepares or prompt a shift in focus, having already reached the rarified air countless dream to breathe, but very few ever do. Fame and celebrity eat away at preparation time, and setting new goals that generate as much drive can become challenging once the ultimate goal is accomplished.
But for Figueiredo, who joins a storied line of Brazilian titleholders in the UFC and stands as one of two current champions from the country considered one of the birthplaces of this sport, the goal today is the same as it was prior to each of his last several fights — to keep getting better.
“I feel real happy to be part of the list, not only the list of Brazilians, but the list of all UFC champions because now I understand how wonderful it is to win a UFC title,” said Figueiredo, who is just the third man to carry the UFC flyweight title and the lone Brazilian male to wear UFC gold at the moment.