Matheus Nicolau is no stranger to challenges. In fact, most of his life has been spent overcoming them.
Regardless of the venue in which the obstacle presents itself, Nicolau has learned that the best thing to do while staring a challenge directly in the face is to be positive and keep working.
“I think every fight, every challenge that we face, we grow with them,” Nicolau told UFC.com during his fight week interview ahead of his pivotal Top 10 matchup against David Dvořák at UFC Fight Night: Blaydes vs Daukaus. “This challenge was no different. I feel more ready than I felt before to get my place in the Top 5.”
No doubt if Nicolau were to look back on his journey to get to the UFC, particularly in the last few years, the amount of forced growth from adversity has likely been immense.
“All of the hard work and believing in myself really worked,” the 29-year-old said with a smile. “It’s funny because when you’re young, you only have wishes and desires. I just wanted to fight in the UFC. I wasn’t thinking about money, fame, whatever. I wanted to fight because it’s something that makes me feel alive and I just love it.
“Then you grow up, you get more mature, you have other things in life going on and then life starts to get more difficult because of that. But any time things get hard, I always try to remember why I started this, what my first fight was like, how happy I was just to be there.”
From dropping his semifinal fight on the fourth season of The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil to having his first stint in the UFC cut short despite a strong showing, the flyweight took each bout with adversity that life threw at him one step at a time, all while keeping his eyes set on the ultimate goal.
“Like I said, I think everything we go through in life makes us grow. That wasn’t any different when I was out of the UFC,” he said. “I was challenged by all these things going on, but I kept training, always kept trying to evolve. It was a good time for me because it reminded me what I really need to do, what I can control and what I can do within my power, and that’s what I did.”
As he heads into the third fight of his second stint in the UFC, another challenge awaits in the dynamic striker Dvořák.
“I think he’s a legit Top 10 opponent; he’s one of the 10 best flyweights in the world, just like I am, so I think he’s a great challenge for me to put me in the next level of my career,” the seventh-ranked flyweight said. “My eyes right now are 100% on Dvořák. Of course, I want to win and get some higher (ranked opponents) but, for now, my eyes are on him. He’s the challenge that I have ahead of me, and I’m just 100% focused on using all of my abilities, all of my weapons in the best way that I can to get the victory.”
While Dvorak carries with him a staggering 16-fight win streak, to Nicolau, it’s just another added challenge.
“I think it’s a great opportunity to break it — to beat him and to finish his win streak.”
Looking to continue stringing together a win streak of his own while climbing the flyweight ladder, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt does so with gratitude and humility, thanks to the challenges in life that not only pushed him to grow, but also served as reminders of what’s really important.
“I’ve trained like a champion since I was 15. I’ve always had moments where I visualized fighting in the UFC, fighting against the best in the world, in my mind. Now I’m here. I was so happy (to visualize this), and now I’m here and ready for it. But really, I’m just honored to have these opportunities.”
UFC Fight Night: Blaydes vs Daukaus took place on Saturday, March 26, 2022, live from a sold out Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses — and relive all of the action on UFC Fight Pass.