It’s hard to believe it’s been almost five years since Thomas Almeida secured his 20th professional MMA victory. Almeida’s vicious KO against Anthony Birchak in 2015 improved him to a perfect 20-0 and he had earned performance bonuses in all four of his UFC wins.
Alemida was one of the hottest prospects in the game. But since then Almeida has fought just four times. His most recent trip to the Octagon was in January of 2018.
On Saturday, Almeida will make his way to the Octagon for the first time since January 2018 when he takes on Jonathan Martinez at Fight Island.
You can catch Almeida vs. Martinez as the opening fight of the ESPN+ main card. UFC.com sat with Almeida to discuss his time away from the Octagon, what it means to be back and much more.
UFC: It’s been a long way since your return. What’s it like to finally be back on fight week?
TA: This is something that I’ve been waiting for, for a long time. Fighting here on the island is amazing. It’s a beautiful place and the people treat me like a king.
UFC: A layoff after a long injury is tough. How did you handle the emotional ups and downs of the comeback?
TA: It’s part of the sport and part of the athlete’s life. At first it was tough, but I had to deal with it and train my body and mind. No sparring but training other ways and adapting myself. Being with my family and friends (helped a lot). People I know really care about me.
UFC: What did you learn about yourself during your time off?
TA: I learned that I love this game. I love to compete and I’m a warrior. Finally being here, I’m super happy. I love everything (about fighting). Even the cutting weight. It’s hard but it’s part of the fighter’s life and the process.
UFC: What are your thoughts on your upcoming opponent?
TA: He likes to strike and kick a lot. But he’s going to put away his striking game and try to take me down. I’m prepared for anything he’ll show to me.
UFC: What type of statement are you looking to make on Saturday?
TA: I want to remind everyone who Thomas Almeida is. I’m hungry and going in there to have fun. They can expect an aggressive fighter who all the time is looking for a finish. I’m hungry and happy so I’m dangerous.
UFC: What type of thoughts or feelings do you expect to have when you make the walk to the Octagon?
TA: I think it will be like normal. Nothing has changed because I’ve been picturing this moment in my mind for so long. It’s going to be normal and just one more fight. I’ve had so many. I want to fight again this year. I’ve been waiting for this. But first I have to focus on Martinez. If things go well and I’m healthy I want to fight again this year. Maybe in December.
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