may be one of the greatest Brazilian jiu-jitsu
practitioners ever to cross over to mixed martial arts, but he
doesn’t let those expectations define his approach to fighting.

Ahead of his matchup with Cody
at UFC Fight Night 223 on Saturday
in Las Vegas, “The Black Belt Hunter” spoke to Sherdog about the
ways in which his Ultimate Fighting Championship run has fallen
short of what he hoped. More than any particular loss, Vieira
professes disappointment that he has only five fights in the four
and a half years since joining the promotion in 2019.

“I can’t even complain about my career,” he said. “I came into the
UFC very early. I came in after only two years or so of training. I
had good fights – three wins by submission. But I also had two
losses. But today I’m much more confident, mature, and experienced.
I wish I could have fought more often, but injuries and other life
matters kept me away. Without a doubt, I wish I could have been
more active. I didn’t want to have just five fights during my time
in the UFC. But God didn’t allow for that. I trust in His plans.
I’m scheduled to fight again. I’m happy and well. That’s what
matters. I’m ready to get back to winning.”

Vieira’s sporadic fight schedule might have represented a serious
hardship for his family, if not for the $50,000 “Performance of the
Night” bonus he netted for his highlight-reel submission of
at UFC on ESPN 26 in July of 2021. “Without any
doubt, that bonus saved my and my family’s lives,” he admitted.
“After that, I didn’t get to fight for nearly one year. It was
hard. Fighting is my only source of income. At the same time, we
live a very simple life, without any waste. That was our luck. But,
without a doubt, the bonus saved us. It kept us well, during a
period when I was only training and spending.”

Vieira sounds relieved to be back in action this weekend, and
excited to face Brundage, an opponent for whom he professes his
respect. That respect extends to Brundage’s ground game; while
Vieira is an world-class submission artist, he understands that the
baseline level of grappling skill in MMA is high enough that there
are no gimmes. “Cody is very tough,” he said. “He’s dangerous. I
respect him. He has a wrestling background and heavy hands. He has
a good jab. In the UFC, there are no easy matchups. Anyone you face
is good everywhere. I’m ready. And just because he has never been
submitted, it doesn’t mean I’ll only look for that. My jiu-jitsu is
sharp, and my striking is much better than last time around. My
main goal is to get a finish before the final buzzer. I know it’s
going to be a tough fight. I’ll be ready for that.”

Same as for all of his Octagon bouts, Vieira’s preparation for “UFC
Vegas 72” took place at his longtime base of operations in South
Florida. “I did my camp at Fusion X-Cel in Orlando. I’ve been here
for four and a half years. I have three coaches. My MMA coach is
. He’s the owner. Mano Santana handles my striking –
boxing and karate. And then there’s Salenco
. He joined the team to be my jiu-jitsu trainer. I had
been without a trainer since I migrated to MMA. He’s made a big
difference in my game. My jiu-jitsu is much better. It’s giving me
a lot of confidence. I have a great team, thankfully, including
great sparring partners.”

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Rodolfo Vieira: Grappling with Expectations