For Miguel Baeza, it doesn’t matter who stands on the opposite side of the Octagon from him this weekend at UFC Fight Night: Luque vs Muhammad 2; he’s simply here to get back on track.
“Last year was a bit of a rough year for me, in and outside of the cage, so I’ve been taking steps to kind of improve my situation and my health,” he told UFC.com in a fight week interview ahead of Saturday’s showing. “I think I’m in a much better position now.”
Citing injuries and other personal adversities, Baeza explained that his last year taught him about the importance of attention to detail — both in training and in life.
“I did learn that I need to take care of the details in my life,” the 29-year-old said. “As much as we want to say we’re focused on the goal, which is winning the fight and becoming a world champion, the details do affect you and will get in the way; if you don’t pay attention to it or address it, it’ll kind of just snowball out of control, and that’s what I kind of think happened to me.”
2021 brought the first two losses “Caramel Thunder” has had to face in his entire martial arts career. After going undefeated in his first 14 fights in both amateur and professional circuits, a unanimous decision loss to Santiago Ponzinibbio that earned him Fight of the Night honors initially set him off course. Then, a third-round knockout loss at the hands of Khaos Williams followed five months later.
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“I definitely learned a rough lesson,” Baeza said — and while he didn’t go in depth about the details that compounded over time into a bigger issue, it’s pretty clear that he’s spent the past five months reflecting and fine-tuning his attention to those details.
“When it comes to everything last year and now this year, I’m just really looking forward to proving that I’m one of the best welterweights in the world. I really think that. I need to come out this Saturday and put a stamp on it and put myself in the right direction again, to fight some of the best guys in the division. So I’m excited to do that."
Getting back on track in the welterweight division starts this weekend as the Florida native is set to take on André Fialho in his sophomore showing inside the Octagon.
“He’s a fighter; he goes in there to throw and he’s willing to exchange and try to get guys out of there,” Baeza said of Fialho. “Total respect to him; he took that fight against Michel (Pereira) on short notice, so nothing but respect to him, he’s a gamer, but on Saturday I’m gonna do what I do.”
Originally scheduled to face Dhiego Lima before the Brazilian announced his retirement from mixed martial arts in February, Baeza wasn’t fazed by the opponent change. In fact, he said when he got the call, he just shrugged and said, “Well, I’ll just fight somebody else.”
“To be honest, my coach and I kind of look at all of the welterweights the same. We’re going to fight everybody anyway, so why not just say yes to whoever they give me?”
Fialho ended up being the name to appear on the contract, and while the Portuguese is still fairly new to the UFC, he’ll make his walk to the Octagon this weekend for his 20th professional fight across numerous promotions.
“That guy’s been around for a while. It wasn’t very hard to find anything on him. Plus, his last fight was a UFC fight and I think that’s the best way to study someone — based off their most recent fight to see what they’re doing.”
Prepared technically, mentally and physically for the main card showdown against Fialho, Baeza’s goals remain unchanged, despite the adversity 2021 brought him.
“It’s super important, especially after what happened last year; I feel like I dropped two fights I should’ve won and I felt like I was doing well until certain things happened, so I think it’s important that I come back and get back in the green and shake up the welterweight division.”
UFC Fight Night: Luque vs Muhammad 2, took place on Saturday, April 16, 2022, live from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses — and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!