Thales Leites: ‘I’m comfortable everywhere, so let’s see what happens’
Thales Leites is hearing a lot of things all around him. He’s hearing that with eight straight wins, a main event win over star middleweight Michael Bisping could get him close to another title shot.
Leites is hearing that Bisping doesn’t have the striking power to be a threat. The Brazilian is being told that, once the fight hits the ground, he’ll submit the Brit with ease.
Thales Leites hears a lot of chatter all around him, heading into his Glasgow UFC Fight Night main event, but that doesn’t mean that he’s listening to any of it. "I’m not looking past this fight to a title shot or anything like that," he tells FOX Sports.
"People ask me if I think I’ll be close to a championship fight if I win because I’ve already won five-straight UFC fights. I am only thinking about this fight. I want to pass this fight. People tell me that I will submit him easy if we get to the ground, but I don’t think so. He’s a brown belt. I think Michael Bisping is dangerous."
Leites’ mature attitude may be a part of what he says is improved mental fortitude in recent years. After all, anyone can pump themselves full of bravado on the deluded notions that their opposition isn’t any good.
It takes a brave fighter to acknowledge just how very good their opponent is, and yet still believe that they themselves will be successful. When the 33-year-old looks back on his younger self, to 2009, when he did indeed get a title fight after five straight wins, he sees a talented but much less psychologically developed fighter.
Back then, Leites went the distance with middleweight champion Anderson Silva, but he may not have believed in himself enough to begin with. "Man, I was so much younger, so different, back then," he remembers.
"I’m definitely better than I was when I got that first title shot. I was good, but I don’t think I really believed in myself the way I should have. The biggest improvements have been mental, since then. I had low points in my career, but I had a lot of high points. When I had some losses I just decided that I needed to be stronger, work harder and keep going."
As such, the world title is still the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu expert’s goal, even if he isn’t allowing himself to look past his Bisping test this weekend, in hostile territory. "Of course I think about another title fight," he says, matter-of-factly.
"I love this sport but I don’t do it just for fun. That’s why we all do this — to become the best. I’m motivated by winning, and because I like it of course, but by winning."
Leites may be realistic about the dangers of fighting Bisping, but he certainly feels calm and confident. The grappler says that he’s a different fighter now that he is comfortable engaging aggressively on the feet, and he believes that will make the difference for him.
"I fight forward," he says.
"I will come at him and we will strike until something else happens. I feel comfortable everywhere in the fight. If we stay on the feet, I will push it. If we go to the ground from a punch or something, I will look to finish there. But I feel comfortable everywhere. So now all there is left to do is fight. We’ll just have to see what happens."