is a study in contradictions. The 30-year-old
Brazilian sports one of the most imposing physiques in the Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight
division, offset by an infectious, guileless smile and pair of
tinted eyeglasses that would look right at home on a full-time
computer programmer. He is a standout athlete who tends towards
blood-and-guts aggression in the cage, yet trains with a team of
self-described “fight nerds,” employing a committee approach to
breaking down his opponents’ strengths and weaknesses.

Borralho’s 2021 arrival in the Ultimate Fighting Championship came with little
fanfare—his first victory on Dana White’s Contender Series was nondescript
enough that he had to come back six weeks later and win again
before earning a UFC contract—but a year after his promotional
debut, it has become impossible to ignore him. Now 3-0 in the UFC
and on an incredible run of 12-0 with one no contest in his last 13
fights, Borralho is knocking on the door of contention.

As he heads into his co-main event clash with Michal
at UFC Fight Night 223 on Saturday
in Las Vegas, Borralho spoke to Sherdog about his background in
combat sports, his unique approach to fighting, his upcoming
opponent and his plans for the future. He began by explaining his
nickname, which refers not to the novel and film about baseball,
nor to former UFC two-division champ Randy
, but to a commitment to well-rounded MMA skills that
Borralho embraced from the beginning of his career.

“After I won a fight, I was interviewed in the cage and was asked
if I preferred to win by strikes or submission,” he said. “I
answered that wherever the fight went, it would be natural for me.
As such, they could call me ‘The Natural.’” Borralho may be focused
on being a complete mixed martial artist, but like many other
fighters, his initial interest in MMA came from the high-flying
appeal of 1990s martial arts films.

“I started out in martial arts at six years old, in judo, in my
hometown of Sao Luis,” ha said. “I fell in love right away. I had a
lot of energy as a boy and my mother wanted me to use it up. I was
a judo competitor for a long time. I joined competitions at the
state, regional and national level. I always liked combat sports.
I’ve always enjoyed Bruce Lee and Jean-Claude Van Damme movies –
movies in which men fought each other in arenas. I was fixated on
Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan movies. I always had the passion but
hadn’t had the chance to train for real. After losing a judo
competition by armlock, my sensei demanded that I practice
jiu-jitsu to be able to remain in judo. I initially felt forced to
do it. I didn’t enjoy it. Then I found a taste for it. I had a
knack for it. After that, I took up muay thai and had an amateur
kickboxing bout. I realized that I wanted to make my living from
fighting. My Olympic dream was too distant from where I was. I
decided I’d dedicate myself to be a champion in the UFC – the
world’s biggest promotion. At the time, I didn’t know what that
would entail. It felt great when I won my kickboxing bout by
second-round KO. It’s what I wanted to do with my life. From there,
I dedicated myself to MMA. I had one amateur MMA fight in my
hometown, Sao Luis. But I knew I’d have to leave it behind, to make
my name in the sport. I left my family and my college. I moved to
Sao Paulo in 2014.”

The rising middleweight contender believes he is still developing,
and interestingly, still focuses on his lone loss, even though it
occurred in his second professional fight, nearly eight years ago.
“I’ve learned many lessons from my fights, even from my wins,” he
said. “The most pivotal fight was my one loss in 2015 [to Joao
]. It completely changed the way I view the sport. I
originally thought I could be world champ with simply good judo and
jiu-jitsu. I didn’t spend time on my standup. In that loss, I
realized how I needed to get used to standing up. I was afraid to
strike. I’d try to grapple immediately. My coach, Pablo Sucupira,
told me to forget MMA for one year and only work on my standup –
boxing, kickboxing, and muay thai. I fought almost 30 standup bouts
in about a year and a half. It was only after that, that I returned
to MMA and felt comfortable enough to continue my quest.
Thankfully, I haven’t lost since 2015. Around the time of that
loss, I had been living in Sao Paulo. I thought it might be easy to
go back to Sao Luis and win an easy fight. I lost in front of my
friends and family, in a packed arena. It was a hard lesson but
it’s what it took to change the trajectory of my career.”

On the subject of his family, Borralho claims that they were
supportive of his choice, but for the most part, material support
of his career was his own problem to solve. “Things were very tough
at first. I had my family’s support, but no actual sponsors. One
uncle of mine helped me when I initially moved to Sao Paulo. But
that didn’t last for too long.”

The lure of fighting pulled the young Borralho away from his
previous career track, academics. Much like former UFC middleweight
champ Rich
, who served as a face of the promotion as it sought
mainstream acceptance, Borralho spent some time as a schoolteacher.
“When I left my hometown, I had been studying industrial
chemistry,” he said. “I’ve always been a nerd. I did teach judo,
but I was a primarily a math and chemistry teacher. After moving to
Sao Paulo, I became a fight trainer and started college classes in
physical education.”

Borralho remains a cerebral type, even as he pursues a career in
the violence business, and appears to see no contradiction in it.
That may be due in part to having surrounded himself with people
who share his mindset. “My academy is The Fighting Nerds,” he said.
“We have two fighters in the UFC: Bruna
and me. Thiago
has joined us in training. We have various great
fighters who may also one day fight in the UFC. And I’ve worn
eyeglasses since age three. I have astigmatism and myopia. It
became my character—a nerdy and cerebral guy who thinks more during
fights, who follows a gameplan or strategy. I explore my opponents’
weaknesses. That became my trademark. Our team’s objective is
twofold. One goal is to change people’s perceptions about fighters.
Fighters aren’t just physical beings. Our team offers English and
public speaking classes. We like to play chess and watch anime.
We’re fight nerds. We get together to study fights and moves. We
want to dispel the idea that fighters aren’t intelligent people.
Our second goal is a matter of encouragement. We’re against
bullying. Nerds and outcasts usually suffer the most from bullying.
We want those kids to see us – nerds fighting and winning in the
world’s biggest promotion. We nerds can do anything we put our
minds to – either working behind a computer screen or fighting in
the world’s biggest promotion.”

On the subject of his assignment this weekend, Borralho
contemplates his upcoming opponent with obvious respect but
believes himself to be the more well-rounded fighter of the two,
and sees vulnerabilities that he can exploit on Saturday. “I think
it’s going to be great fight,” he said. “We’re the co-main event.
Michal Oleksiejczuk is a quality fighter. He was a top-15 light
heavyweight. After two losses, he moved down to middleweight. Now
he’s coming off two KO wins. He basically boxes. He trusts his left
hand. He’s a lefty. That left is how he’s scored most of his
knockouts, but he’s somewhat one-dimensional. I feel that when he
has faced guys on my level, that’s when he has lost. I’ve shown my
wrestling and jiu-jitsu in the UFC. I’ve dominated my opponents.
I’ve only taken about three or four punches altogether in my last
five bouts. I imagine we’ll have a great fight. I’m ready to face
him via standup. I’ve hired some southpaw fighters, including some
guys from the Brazilian boxing team. I’ll use my striking, but I
know we’ll eventually come closer, and that’s when my advantage
will be even greater. Two of his recent losses were by submission.
I believe I can make that happen too. Since my last few fights were
by decision, I want to get back to getting finishes. We’ll have a
clash of styles, but he had better not underestimate my

When asked about his preparation for “UFC Vegas 72,” Borralho
sounds very much like what he freely admits to being: a nerd among
nerds, at least when it comes to training. He employs a
star-studded team of coaches and trainers, with whom he has
long-standing relationships in most cases, and trusts then to
fine-tune his skills to the task in front of him.

“I did my entire camp at The Fighting Nerds academy,” Borralho
proclaimed. “It’s always been my academy, over the last 10 years. I
founded it with my coach. My standup coach is Pablo Sucupira.
Wagner Mota is my jiu-jitsu coach. He was Demian
’s coach for 12 years. Coach Flavio
is a legend in the Brazilian MMA scene. He helps me in
fighting in the cage, and with my ground-and-pound skills. He’s an
expert. Besides that, I do my boxing pad work with Erick Terere and
muay thai pad work with Raoni Messore. I’ve set a few traps for
[Oleksiejczuk]. But I can’t say what they are, but don’t be
surprised if you see me win by KO.”

Unsurprisingly for a fighter who is so analytical in his approach,
Borralho has a clear mental picture of his next steps, in the event
that he is successful against Oleksiejczuk this weekend. “After
this fight, I expect to be on a four-fight winning streak in the
UFC, or a six-fight streak if you count Dana White’s Contender Series,” he said. “I
feel I deserve a top-15 opponent after this. In my opinion, a good
opponent would be Kelvin
, who just had a win. It’s nothing personal. I respect
him as a martial artist. I plan to call him out after beating

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Nerding Out with Caio Borralho