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UFC 256: Deiveson Figueiredo – The bricklaying sushi chef who became a UFC champion

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Deiveson Figueiredo celebrates the first defence of his UFC flyweight title
There will be just 21 days between the first defence of Deiveson Figueiredo’s flyweight title and his next fight on Saturday

The bricklayer, the hairdresser, the motorcycle taxi driver.

It sounds like a nursery rhyme, but those are just some of the jobs Deiveson Figueiredo did before adding UFC fighter to the list.

The Brazilian, 32, struggled to make ends meet after leaving home on the edge of the Amazon rainforest to chase his dream.

But now he’s the UFC flyweight champion and will make the second defence of his title against Brandon Moreno at UFC 256 on Saturday.

Figueiredo is also set to become the most lethal finisher the flyweight division has ever seen but, most importantly, he no longer has to worry about where his next meal is coming from.

“I struggled a lot, and not just me,” he said. “I lived with my brother and two friends.

“There were days when we had money to eat, but sometimes we didn’t.”

‘I’m from a poor family, but I pushed myself’

Figueiredo grew up in the small town of Soure, where water buffaloes roam freely and his father was a cowboy, and he worked on the farm until he was 13.

Then he discovered the Brazilian martial art of capoeira and left for the Para state capital of Belem, where he began training with UFC fighters Iuri ‘Marajo’ Alcantara and Michel ‘Trator’ Prazeres.

Figueiredo’s younger brother Francisco, 31, followed the same dream, but times were tough. Sometimes Prazeres’ mother had to give them food.

“The biggest struggle was at the end of the month, when we needed to pay the rent,” Figueiredo added. “Then when we paid the rent, we didn’t have money to eat.”

Figueiredo worked security at a hair salon but, spotting an opportunity to earn more, he learned how to style men’s and women’s hair.

Then someone at Prazeres’ gym owned a sushi store and Figueiredo trained to become a sushi chef. He also worked as a bricklayer while establishing himself on Brazil’s professional MMA circuit and was still driving a motorcycle taxi when he signed with the UFC in 2017.

“I’m from a poor family, but I pushed myself,” he said. “I worked hard for the dream to become a reality. Everything’s changed now, and I’m so grateful.”

Bringing the excitement back

Joining the UFC has allowed Figueiredo to buy things he’s not been able to buy before. Designer sunglasses were one of his first purchases, plus he no longer has to cut his own hair.

So he has looked the part while breathing new life into the flyweight division, one which isn’t renowned for entertaining finishes.

“I like to take care of myself and look good because I like to be a stylish guy,” said Figueiredo.

“I’ve come to bring back the excitement of the flyweight division. I’m the champion and I plan to knock out every fighter. I’m going to bring the audience back to the division.”

Since joining the UFC, Figueiredo has delivered on the promise he showed while struggling to get by in Brazil, building a professional record of 20-1.

After beating Joseph Benavidez twice this year to claim the flyweight title, he earned a first-round submission of Alex Perez at UFC 255 to go level with Demetrious Johnson for most finishes in UFC flyweight fights – seven.

Figueiredo then went straight back into training camp after agreeing to face Brandon Moreno in Las Vegas just 21 days later, which will beat the current record for shortest span between title fights – 56 days.

Moreno also fought at UFC 255, taking his record to 18-5-1, but if Figueiredo becomes the first man to finish the Mexican, 27, it would put him firmly in contention for Fighter of the Year.

“When I think about that, I feel really happy and proud of myself,” he said.

“It will be great to win again on Saturday, take the belt back to Brazil and relax with my family.”

‘I want to knock Cejudo’s mask off his face’

After watching his brother’s dream become reality, Francisco is set to join him. His UFC debut is scheduled for January, but Deiveson’s journey from rags to riches could continue with a ‘super fight’.

Former bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt remains interested after a bout of coronavirus prevented him for challenging for the Brazilian’s flyweight belt last time out.

But Figueiredo is also keen to face Henry Cejudo, who retired after retaining his bantamweight title in May.

The former two-weight world champion, 33, recently called Figueiredo “the lord of nothing”external-link and said he was only “babysitting” the flyweight title he vacated last December.

“I want them to talk more about me,” said Figueiredo. “Those guys are only making me bigger and stronger.

“Cejudo’s a masked clown. I can’t wait for him to step in front of me so I can knock that mask off his face.

“I want to dominate my division, I want to make history. But I’m open to having a super fight at 135 (lbs, bantamweight).”

Veteran Tony Ferguson also returns in Las Vegas on Saturday. The American lightweight hopes to bounce back from his loss to Justin Gaethje in May as he faces Charles Oliveira, the Brazilian on a seven-fight win streak.

About Frank Rideout