First impressions are crucial, especially when it is a moment a decade in the making.
Every fighter who straps on the 4 oz. leather gloves does so with the hopes of one day competing on the sport’s biggest stage, and these dreams and ambitions have never been lost on Igor Araujo. The scrappy Brazilian honed his craft and built a solid resume by toppling the competition on multiple regional circuits, all in hopes of one day getting the call to join the UFC roster.
With the ultra-competitive nature of the business and spots under the UFC banner limited, Araujo subscribed to the notion that hard work would pay off and the grind would produce the desired results. The Jackson’s MMA-trained fighter kept his eyes on the proverbial prize as he continued to roll through every obstacle put in his path.
He compiled an impressive recent run where he found victory in 12 out of his last 13 showings, including his current streak of four consecutive wins. With this success and a stint on season 16 of The Ultimate Fighter that saw him make it to the quarterfinals, Araujo’s name began to pop up on watch lists around the MMA community, and this momentum caught the attention of those he’d been working to capture the entire time.
All the hard work paid off when the savvy welterweight was tapped to face Ildemar Alcantara at UFC Fight Night on October 9. He will square off with the older of the Alcantara brothers in Barueri, Brazil, and despite all the effort he’s put into reaching this place in his career, he is fully aware that the real test is set to begin.
No one gets a second chance to make a first impression and Araujo has every intention of making his UFC debut a memorable one. That being said, the situation undoubtedly creates a unique amount of pressure but Araujo is looking to convert that energy into fuel for a successful performance a week from today.
“I am waiting until I get there to start thinking about all of this, but one thing I can tell you is that this is happiness for me,” Araujo said. “I’m feeling this pressure and I can’t wait to take it out from my shoulders. Once I get in the cage I don’t feel anything anymore and I’m sure I am going to show how good I am on October 9.
“It will be under my skin, under my muscles, under my ribs and blood, but everybody will see my heart in this fight.”
While Araujo will be looking to make good on his debut, his opponent next Wednesday night has already settled into the UFC fold - albeit in unique fashion. Throughout his career, Alcantara has competed in a variety of weight classes and made his official debut against Wagner Prado as a light heavyweight at UFC on FX 7 in January.
Five months later, Alcantara dropped down to 170 pounds to square off with Leandro Silva at UFC on FUEL TV 10. “Marajo” was successful in both showings, and those performances helped him quickly establish a reputation for being a game fighter inside the Octagon.
That is what Araujo is expecting to see on Oct. 9 and he’s looking forward to the challenge.
“He is tough, as all the UFC fighters are,” Araujo said. “He is a good striker, a BJJ black belt as I am, and I think it will be a great fight with two guys fighting for their lives inside the Octagon.”
In addition to making his first showing under the UFC banner, another element of excitement is added with the fight coming in Brazil. It has been years since Araujo has been able to fight in front of his countrymen, and the fact the biggest contest of his MMA career will come in his native Brazil only provides that much more anticipation heading into the tilt.
“It’s awesome and could not be better,” Araujo said. “Fighting for my people, in my country, that’s just amazing. I sometimes stop myself thinking about all these situations and it’s just unbelievable. I am so happy.”
With Brazil largely recognized as the Mecca of mixed martial arts, the fan base has been one of the most passionate collections in the sport. The country takes pride in its storied history in combat sports and wholeheartedly embraces the fighting culture.
Araujo embodies the warrior spirit of his homeland and has traveled a similar path that many of his countrymen have navigated. Emerging from the hardship circumstances of a youth spent in Brazil to chase the dream of becoming a successful fighter is an ambition many of his peers have pursued, and one Araujo has fought and bled to achieve.
It isn’t the sum of wins and losses where he and many of his countrymen are concerned; it’s a matter of life and death. That is the urgency Araujo carries with him into each battle inside the cage and when circumstances of that weight are on the line, the inner warrior will rise because that is the only option.
“We fight for our lives out there,” Araujo said about the Brazilian fighting spirit. “It is something big because all things are tough for us. Sponsorship, equipment, places to train; everything for us is hard. I remember once in my life I asked a restaurant to give me a meal a day for sponsorship. Our fight starts before the “real fight” and never ends. I am just going there to fight for my life, knowing that is all in God’s hands.”
Igor Araujo: A Long-Awaited Moment Arrives
"Once I get in the cage I don’t feel anything anymore and I’m sure I am going to show how good I am on October 9." - Igor Araujo