Like his famously elusive namesake, Marcos
Rogerio de Lima
is lurking just outside the Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight Top
10, ready to sneak up on a suddenly wide-open division.

De Lima (20-8-1; 9-6 UFC), who is set to face 9-0 rising prospect
on the main card of UFC Fight Night 223 on Saturday
at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada, spoke to Sherdog about his
history as well as his future with the promotion, and shared some
insights on his approach to fighting. The 37-year-old Brazilian who
goes by “Pezao” — that’s Portuguese for “Bigfoot” — is a 15-fight
veteran of the Octagon, but the first half of his UFC run was
contested at light heavyweight. Speaking to him today gives the
sense that he is happier in his new weight class, and perhaps even
wishes he had made the move sooner.

“Thankfully, I have a blessed career,” he said. “I’m very dedicated
to my work. There was a time when I’d drop to light heavyweight. It
was torture. I didn’t have good fight performances. After moving up
to heavyweight, I become much faster and stronger. My conditioning
is much better. This was great for my health, as well as for my
life as a father, son, and athlete. I thank God for putting people
in my life who help me do this. I’ve always sought new training
techniques, and new ways to evolve. I think that whoever saw my
first fight in the UFC, my first loss, and my first win, knows that
I’m a completely different athlete today. I’m in constant
evolution. I’m happy with what I’ve done thus far, and with my
performances, even in losses. I’m always putting on great battles.
I expect to keep this up for quite some time.”

About his upcoming opponent, the undefeated Cortes-Acosta, de Lima
has nothing but good things to say. He maintains that his clash
with the massive Panamanian should yield good results for the

“Waldo was on the same card when I fought Andrei
,” de Lima said, referring to his most recent outing at
UFC Fight Night 213 last October. “I watched his fight. We even
interacted a bit. He seems like a really cool guy. He’s a young
up-and-comer. He used to play baseball. He’s always been an
athlete. He boxed, and now he’s in MMA. Despite having few MMA
bouts, he’s amassed experience in boxing, and he’s always been a
competitor. Without a doubt, it will be a great fight. He’s a good
striker with good knockouts. He controls his opponents well. I
think he matches up very well with me. I’m also highly aggressive,
and I like to move forward. The fans will truly enjoy our fight. I
know I have the ability to win this fight, with a more complete
game. I haven’t seen too much footage on him, other than the fight
against Jared
, which he won by decision. It was his UFC debut, so
I’m sure he was being careful. Against me, I’ll sure we’ll tear
each other apart with strikes.”

De Lima is as familiar as he cares to be with Cortes-Acosta’s skill
set, but makes it clear that his priority is his own preparation,
and that looking for some kind of Achilles’ heel in one’s opponent
is a fool’s errand.

“I’m giving the most emphasis to my physical condition,” he said.
“Each time, I’m stronger and faster. I want to be a true
heavyweight who’s also strong, fast, with good conditioning. I
never face my opponents with a particular strategy. I show up ready
to fight MMA. I glance at my opponent to have an idea of what he
likes to do. I don’t try to look for holes in my opponent’s game. I
feel that’s a great illusion. I’ll be ready to strike, wrestle, or
hit the ground. I’m mostly working on my physical conditioning with
coach Everton
at American Top Team. He’s worked with several champs:
Junior dos
, Amanda
, Adriano
, as well as top fighters like Alexandre
. I also train under Katel Kubis and Gabriel Oliveira,
who works with me on my boxing. And I’ve been working with Steve
, ‘Parrumpa,’ and Ailton
. They’re all a huge help. Lastly, Marcus ‘Conan’
manages my training schedule. I’m confident I’ll be at
100% for this fight, and I’ll be scoring yet another win.”

While de Lima is preoccupied at the moment with the challenge in
front of him this Saturday and his own place in the UFC heavyweight
division, he spares some thought for past losses that still sting,
and admits that the division is in flux thanks to one recent
high-profile fight. “This year, I’m very focused on getting into
the top 15,” he said. “I think this fight may get me there. It’s
where I need to be. And I can think of a few fights I’d like to
revisit. I’m not much for rematches, but I’m still bothered by my
losses to Blagoy
and Alexander
,” he said, referring in the latter case to a razor-close decision loss last May. “I’d like
those rematches. I want to reach the top of our weight class, and I
know I have much to contribute. After Jon Jones vs
, we have a new target on which to focus. I’m looking
forward to a great year with some great wins.”

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‘Bigfoot’ Stalks the UFC Heavyweight Division