Just a few years ago, it would have been practically unimaginable
that Mexico could not only get on the board but hold more Ultimate Fighting Championship titles than
powerhouse countries Brazil or Russia.

The promotion currently has three Mexican champions: Brandon
at flyweight, Yair
as the interim featherweight beltholder and Alexa
as the women’s flyweight champ. This ties the nation
with the United States, in which Aljamain
(bantamweight) Jamahal
(light heavyweight) and Jon Jones
(heavyweight) hold straps in their weight categories. If the
prediction of recent UFC signee and Lobo Gym Brazilian jiu-jitsu
coach Diego Lopes
is accurate, Mexico will have its fourth concurrent champion on
June 10. That night, at UFC 289 in Vancouver, British Columbia,
Canada, Mexican challenger Irene
will take on vaunted bantamweight queen Amanda
in the main attraction. Lopes, in an interview with
Sherdog shortly after his thrilling performance against Movsar
at UFC 288, expected Aldana would pull off the

“We are doing great team work in Lobo Gym for the last four years
and it could be shown when Grasso beat Valentina [Shevchenko] and
shocked the world,” Lopes boasted. “Now it is natural that Aldana
is also a huge underdog against Amanda, who is no doubt one of the
best ever, but I truly believe she will shock the world just like
Grasso did.”

The coach and new UFC addition was coy on exactly how Aldana could
play spoiler.

“Irene [has] evolved a lot [on her] ground game, but everybody
knows her strong point is boxing. All I can say is that we will
bring some surprises to Amanda,” noted the Brazilian jiu-jitsu

Lopes made a name for himself when he stepped in to replace
against Evloev five days before UFC 288. In their
three-round affair, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt arguably
gave the Russian the stiffest test of his undefeated career. Lopes
believes his submissions – and Evloev’s toughness – might have
caused some harm, inflicting damage that may have made lesser foes

“I heard his arm and leg pop, but I knew he wouldn’t tap out,”
Lopes revealed.

Lopes and Evloev earned “Fight of the Night” for their
back-and-forth encounter, and UFC President Dana White informed him
that he will be brought back soon. When asked to choose an opponent
to his return to the Octagon, Lopes selected not one but two

“If I could choose a top 15 [opponent] to make another exciting
fight, now with a complete camp, it would be Bryce
or Alex
,” Lopes remarked confidently. “Any one of them would be
a very nice matchup to my style, but I’m available for any other
[fighter the] UFC chooses.”

Born in Manaus, Brazil, to a family of black belts – his father and
uncle are trained under master Oswaldo Alves – Lopes started his
MMA career when he was a purple belt at only 17 years of age.

“I needed my father to sign an authorization,” Lopes said with a

After winning at a couple of BJJ events and earning a few wins in
MMA, Lopes reached brown belt. It was then that he accepted an
invitation to teach BJJ in Mexico. He never looked back.

“First, I went to Cancun, but one year later, the academy closed,
so I moved to Puebla where I opened my own academy,” the
28-year-old explained. “Later on, I was invited by Francisco Grasso
to work with Lobo Team. There I started to work with his niece,
, and Irene

The $50,000 in bonus money Lopes earned at UFC 288 was
life-changing, both for him and his family. The featherweight used
part of the bonus prize of UFC to come back home and visit his
family. More of it went to his family.

“For the last nine years I’m in Mexico, [so] I just could visit my
family once,” Lopes said. “Now, besides visiting my parents, I
could use part of the money I got to help my mother to finish her
dream of finishing her house construction.”

Lopes believes he has family everywhere, not just back in Manaus,
but also in Mexico. With the ties he has made, he believes the
community recognizes him as one of its own.

“I have to thank Mr. Francisco very much,” Lopes graciously stated.
“When I was just 24 years old, he believed in me to be their
jiu-jitsu head coach. Thanks to him, today I say my heart is half
Mexican, half Brazilian. We worked really hard for the last four
years and the result is coming.”

According to the fighter, he made a promise to teammate Aldana when
her fight with Nunes was announced.

“I told Irene that if she conquered the belt against Amanda, I
could retire as the youngest MMA trainer to have two world titles.
That’s just a joke, but no matter the result, I’m really happy to
see Mexico as a new powerhouse of MMA and [am proud to be] able to
be part of it,” Lopes jovially concluded.

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Diego Lopes Expects Teammate Irene Aldana Will Shock the World Against Amanda Nunes