MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay — Sometimes, all you need is to move away from family and friends to focus.
Weeks after being signed by the UFC, Raulian Paiva’s world fell apart with the death of his girlfriend, killed after they were struck by a car in Brazil in October. The promising flyweight, who was already negotiating his Octagon debut at the time, asked the promotion to push it back a few months.
Paiva finally made his official debut in February, flying across the world to meet Kai Kara-France in Australia, but lost a close split decision at UFC 234. With his 12-fight winning streak snapped, Paiva decided to change things up.
The Brazilian left his hometown of Santana to do his first full training camp at Team Alpha Male in California. After watching his new teammates shine at UFC Sacramento and learning new techniques in the gym, Paiva feels that the biggest change leading up to his UFC Uruguay bout with Rogerio Bontorin, on Aug. 10, was inside his head.
“I consider myself a new athlete now,” Paiva told MMA Fighting. “I was well prepared for that fight with Kai Kara-France, but I wasn’t 100 percent like I am now because I did my camp in Brazil and still had negative thoughts. Leaving my home state, leaving my country was good because I needed this time alone. I needed a camp outside of Brazil to become a new athlete. I had that now, I met new people, I learned new things, and I have new thoughts now. I’m way more positive than I was last time.”
Paiva still feels he’s done enough to win against Kara-France in Australia, but judges disagreed. He’s now adapted his mindset going into fights: he won’t fear getting released by the UFC anymore, and will do everything he can to avoid going the distance.
“After I lost my UFC debut, I put in my head that I have to get the finish as fast as possible, I don’t want to go to a decision anymore,” Paiva said. “You always have doubts even if you did a good job. I trained to end this fight as soon as possible. It will always be like that moving forward. I want quick fights.”
“I thought a lot about (the risk of getting released) before my debut, but I can’t add that pressure over myself. I have to go there and get the job done, do what I prepared and be comfortable in the fight. I’m fine. I’ll go there and do my job. If the win comes, cool. If it doesn’t, keep your head up. But I’m confident that I will win.”
Paiva and Bontorin were signed by the UFC through the Brazilian version of Dana White’s Contender Series last year. Unlike Paiva, Bontorin was successful in his UFC debut with a decision win over Magomed Bibulatov at UFC Fortaleza in February.
When they both were in Las Vegas for the Contender Series last August, Paiva says he felt they would meet inside the eight-sided cage eventually, but didn’t expect it to happen so soon. Paiva foresees a tough battle at UFC Uruguay, but is confident he’s superior enough to get the job done Saturday night.
“I honestly haven’t seen anything that Bontorin does that might scare me,” Paiva said. “He has a huge heart, that’s true, a good jiu-jitsu, but I believe I’m way better than him. I’m prepared to fight him on the feet and on the ground.”