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Brad Tavares prepares to fight Antonio Carlos Junior of Brazil in a middlweight fight during the UFC 257 event inside Etihad Arena on UFC Fight Island on January 23, 2021 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
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Brad Tavares Feels Primed For Another Run

Ahead Of His 20th UFC Fight, Brad Tavares Believes UFC 264 Is His Time To Make A Statement

It’s hard to imagine an MMA fan not knowing who Brad Tavares is as the Hawaiian readies himself for his 20th walk to the Octagon. Yet despite being a mainstay in the middleweight rankings, Tavares is a little more lenient to the hypothetically unaware. His hope now, though, is to educate the newcomers to the sport in a rapidly evolving division. 

“If they’re new to the sport, they might not even realize who I am (and) how long I’ve been around,” Tavares told UFC.com. “It’s fine. It’s one of those things. You gotta stay active to stay relevant, and unfortunately, I dealt with two pretty serious injuries, two surgeries, so it put me out for extended periods of time. Right now, I’m feeling very healthy, feeling great physically, so I’m just ready to go on another run.”

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Healthy is the buzzword around Tavares, who suffered a pair of major injuries that required surgery, including a torn ACL in early-2020. After fighting about two to three times per year for the last decade, Tavares found himself in a somewhat crucial fight in terms of his career trajectory when he entered the cage against Antonio Carlos Junior at UFC 257. There, Tavares looked sharp in all facets, earning his first win in nearly three years. 

As he approaches his bout with Omari Akhmedov at UFC 264: Poirier vs McGregor 3, the state of the middleweight division is an enticing picture filled with new faces, new contenders, and new chances to emphasize his excellence.

“There’s all these new names, so it does make it exciting,” Tavares said. “It keeps it fresh. It keeps it moving. It doesn’t get stagnant. I think a lot of times, like 205, for example, when Jon Jones is so dominant and wiped out everybody in the division, it’s like, where do you go from there? Obviously, some years later, he’s gone up to heavyweight to take on new endeavors, new challenges, but for our division to see these new set of guys come in and keep it fresh, it’s exciting.”

Tavares feels a little like a dark horse in the 185-pound ranks now. Although he has lost to current champion Israel Adesanya and former champion Robert Whittaker, Tavares hasn’t fought many who occupy the division’s rankings right now, which appears to give him a little bit of a new life. 

Brad Tavares punches Antonio Carlos Junior of Brazil in a middleweight fight during the UFC 257 event inside Etihad Arena on UFC Fight Island on January 23, 2021 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Brad Tavares punches Antonio Carlos Junior of Brazil in a middleweight fight during the UFC 257 event inside Etihad Arena on UFC Fight Island on January 23, 2021 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

One of those new-to-Tavares faces is Akhmedov, who has floated around the Top 15 and Top 10 for some time now. Akhmedov is also coming off a bounce-back win over Tom Breese, and Tavares is exactly the kind of name that would put the Russian into those Top 10 type fights. That said, the 33-year-old Hawaiian feels confident he will outclass Akhmedov on the night. 

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“I think I flourish everywhere,” Tavares said. “I think I’m better. I think I’m the better striker. I think I have better cardio, and I think I can stop his wrestling offense.”

Akhmedov is Tavares’ second-straight grappling-heavy opponent, and Tavares showed strong defensive grappling against “Shoe Face.” Although Tavares knows fighting is rather unpredictable in nature, he does expect a similar approach from Akhmedov, as well as a similar result. 

Maki Pitolo and Brad Tavares training at the UFC PI

LAS VEGAS 12/23/20 - UFC Fighters Maki Pitolo and Brad Tavares training at the UFC Performance Institute (Photo credit: Juan Cardenas @desautomatas).

December 23, 2020 in UFC Performance Institute

For fans, old and new, Tavares has a relatively clear vision of how the night is going to go.

“They’ll see me piecing him up, stuffing takedowns,” Tavares said. “It will look a lot like my last fight, honestly, and hopefully, I keep stuffing them, and he keeps getting desperate, and I just get him out of there.”

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Activity is the name of the game when it comes to relevancy in combat sports, and it’s something that eluded Tavares in the last few years. That said, 2021 is off to a good start for him, and July 10 represents a second chapter of the new story he is writing in the middleweight division. His endgame, however, is still the same: the UFC title.

“It’s always been my goal to be a champion, to be up there, to fight for gold,” Tavares said. “That hasn’t changed. It’s still my goal. That’s still what I see. That’s still where I want to be.”

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