Fabio Maldonado doesn’t guarantee a victory. Nothing like that. The only thing he can be sure of is that Stipe Miocic is going to get hurt.
"I’m gonna really put an ass whooping on Miocic," Maldonado told FOX Sports through an interpreter Wednesday.
That’s not to say Maldonado doesn’t believe he’ll befall the same fate Saturday night when the two meet in the main event of the TUF Brazil Finale in Sao Paulo (FOX Sports 1, 10 p.m.). The Brazilian took the fight on 12 days notice when Junior dos Santos was forced to pull out with a broken hand. Maldonado fully expects a firefight, something he has become known for during his UFC career.
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"I’m gonna hit him, I’m gonna get hit," Maldonado said. "I can’t promise to win. That’s a big promise. What I can promise is I’m going to leave my life inside that ring."
Maldonado (21-6) typically competes in the UFC’s light heavyweight division, where he has won three straight fights. But when dos Santos dropped out, Maldonado jumped at the chance at headlining an event in his home country. He said he weighed 225 pounds Wednesday, so he’ll be giving up at least 20 pounds to Miocic, who typically comes in at around 245.
I can’t promise to win. That’s a big promise. What I can promise is I’m going to leave my life inside that ring.
On top of that, Miocic is ranked No. 7 in the heavyweight division. Maldonado isn’t even ranked at 205. The sports book 5dimes has him as a +400 underdog to Miocic. But that none of that really deterred Maldonado from taking the bout.
"Everybody can have their opinion," he said. "I respect people’s opinion. He is the favorite, but what would I tell my kids if I back down from a challenge like that?"
Maldonado, 34, said he is willing to fight anyone at heavyweight or light heavyweight in the UFC. Even though many believe beating Miocic is a long shot, Maldonado is thinking ahead. He knows a victory against one of the best heavyweights in the world would vault him up the rankings toward his ultimate goal: a title shot.
Contrary to popular belief, Maldonado doesn’t fancy himself as just a guy who puts on fun fights. Yes, his boxing (he’s 22-0 as a pro pugilist) and ability to take a punch — or several — have provided some Fight of the Night-quality performances. But Maldonado wants to be a UFC champion, not just a bonus chaser.
"I’m not coming here to entertain nobody," Maldonado said. "I’m looking to win the title."
There’s no doubt Maldonado has skills. Anyone with three straight victories in the UFC can scrap a little bit. But two of those have come against fighters who are no longer in the organization. Miocic represents the toughest challenge of his career and Maldonado knows it.
"I know I’m going to have to do more than I did the last three fights," Maldonado acknowledged. "I’m going to be all over him. I’m going to hit him in the body, the head, wherever. I’m going to put pressure on him from the beginning to the end."
Maldonado might not win. But he plans on giving Miocic hell either way.