With a first UFC title under his belt, Deiveson Figueiredo is now focused on becoming a two-division champion – and has eyes on a super fight with Henry Cejudo.
Figueiredo, 32, defeated Joseph Benavidez for the vacant flyweight crown in the co-main event at UFC Fight Night 2 in Abu Dhabi, in a rematch of their February meeting.
The Brazilian won via a rear-naked choke at the end of the opening round having dominated his rival from the outset, which included two knockdowns and what seemed certain to be an earlier submission.
The win means Figueiredo becomes the third man to win gold at flyweight following Demetrious Johnson and Cejudo, with the latter vacating the belt upon announcing his shock retirement in May. Cejudo, who also held the title at bantamweight, has since teased a comeback.
Not long after his victory in Abu Dhabi, Figueiredo said: “I’ll accept a super fight if they want to give me one. I’ll move up to 135 [lbs]. I want to be a two-division champion, but I’m going to defend this belt as well.
"I’d like to have a fight at 135. I’d like to be the guy who brings back Henry Cejudo from retirement. He was looking for a worthy opponent and I’m that guy. Now I have the belt I have to train very hard. I’m the guy that everyone wants to beat. I’m the guy that everyone is looking at.”
In seeing off Benavidez, Figueiredo took his record in mixed martial arts to 19-1 in what was a dazzling display in the third of four events at Fight Island at Flash Forum. It earned him not only a first title, but also performance of the night, which he shared with compatriot Ariane Lipski.
Figueiredo had defeated Benavidez in their initial match-up earlier this year, but did not make weight and thus the fight was relegated from a title bout. Figueiredo's participation on Sunday was threatened not only by his chequered history with weight cuts, but also after he recently tested positive for Covid-19. However, he returned a negative test before leaving Brazil for Abu Dhabi and was tested again upon arrival in the capital.
Joseph Benavidez tears up after defeat
Yet he maintained his focus to dispatch Benavides, who broke down in tears when facing the media following his defeat.
“I’m a guy who doesn’t give up ever,” Figueiredo said. “I had to overcome all those hurdles to get here - it’s just something I had to do. I had to come in here to make weight and I was able to make weight. So you can bet I’m going to be a champion that’s going to hold this belt for a while.”
“I’m a knockout artist, everybody knows that and we put together that record with a lot of hard fights. And, anyone who wants to come in and challenge me and fight me, just be prepared because I’m a knockout artist. I’m available for whoever the UFC wants to put in front of me, anyone at my level. But you have to be at my level because I’m going to knock you out.
"I’m going home tomorrow and we’re going to start celebrating with all Brazilians on the flight back. And as soon as I land in Brazil everyone is going to be taking pictures and congratulating me, so it’s going to be a great party.”
Jack Hermansson was also celebrating on Sunday after triumphing in the co-main event against Kelvin Gastelum. The Swedish middleweight did it in style too, submitting his opponent 78 seconds into the fight with a tight heel hook. It marked Hermansson's fifth victory in his past six appearances.
“That’s my goal, that’s why I do this: I want a title shot,” he said. “It went perfect: first-round finish, that’s what I want. I’m always satisfied if I get the finish. If I don’t get the finish, I’m not always satisfied, but now it’s not only a victory, it’s a finish in the first round, so I’m happy with that.
“I didn’t think too much, I just did as I do in practice. I tried to stay aggressive and work for the submissions. We knew, we prepared for him posting up in the tripod position. Did you see that? That’s something that we worked for, so I knew that he was going to do that.”