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Gregory Rodrigues of Brazil poses on the scale during the UFC 283 ceremonial weigh-in at Jeunesse Arena on January 20, 2023 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC
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Gregory Rodrigues Rejuvenated His Love For The Sport

Back In Love With The Day-To-Day Grind Of Mixed Martial Arts, Gregory Rodrigues Feels Like His Best Performance Is Coming At UFC 292: Sterling vs O’Malley

To fight the way Gregory “RoboCop” Rodrigues does, you need a real love for the sport. While everyone faces day-to-day adversity, Rodrigues built a reputation for making dramatic comebacks in the Octagon, which means he first needs to find himself up against it. No fight shines a brighter light on that tendency than his turnaround win against Chidi Njokuani, in which Rodrigues suffered a frankly disgusting cut between the eyebrows. The scar remains distinct, but so does the win he secured via TKO in the second round. 

Getting your hand raised makes all the struggle worth it, but Rodrigues saw that momentum dissipate in January 2023 when he lost to Brunno Ferreira in the first round at UFC 283. The result was all the more disappointing considering it was Rodrigues’ first bout in Brazil under the UFC banner. Since then, he chose to spend the time between his first and second fights of 2023 rededicating himself to the sport.  

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“I always said if you win or lose, you learn something from there,” Rodrigues told UFC.com. “That makes sense. That’s worth it. After that fight, one of the things I can say about myself now is I’m more professional. I’m enjoying more what I do now — being in the UFC.”

Gregory Rodrigues of Brazil reacts after defeating Chidi Njokuani in a middleweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on September 17, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Gregory Rodrigues of Brazil reacts after defeating Chidi Njokuani in a middleweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on September 17, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Rodrigues spent time in Oklahoma City with Rafael Lovato Jr., rededicating himself to his “roots” of jiu jitsu. He called his time there “amazing” and that it helped him “enjoy” the training process again. 

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It’s a sentiment that echoes friend and training partner Vicente Luque. “The Silent Assassin” talked a lot about falling back in love with martial arts ahead of his triumphant return to competition in his main event victory over Rafael Dos Anjos on August 12. 

Luque, who moved his family to South Florida to train full-time at Kill Cliff FC, heaped praise on Rodrigues’ family for their help acclimating to the relocation and, in turn, Rodrigues felt the benefits of having the Top 15 welterweight around, as well. 

Gregory Rodrigues of Brazil punches Chidi Njokuani in a middleweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on September 17, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Gregory Rodrigues of Brazil punches Chidi Njokuani in a middleweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on September 17, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

“It's so good to have people like him and Gilbert (Burns) on my side, man,” Rodrigues said. “I'm so grateful for that. We are always talking together about how the camp was not something we have, but something we enjoy. It was so nice, and I know I can show that inside the cage on Saturday.”

The man whom Rodrigues faces is Denis Tiuliulin. The bout was originally scheduled for late-June but was moved to UFC 292: Sterling vs O’Malley.

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That just meant more time for Rodrigues to enjoy his rejuvenated love for training and more time spent refining his already fan-friendly skillset. 

“He's a striking guy, but I have a lot of stuff that I can work on,” he said. “I believe the fight is going my way. I will control the whole fight, and I will do what I need to do.”

Gregory Rodrigues punches Dusko Todorovic of Serbia in a middleweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on June 05, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Gregory Rodrigues punches Dusko Todorovic of Serbia in a middleweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on June 05, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

It feels like this fight is one of those where Rodrigues isn’t as concerned about who the opponent is, but more about performing in a way that honors the work he put in over the last seven months or so. 

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After watching Luque dispatch of a former champion in impressive fashion, Rodrigues couldn’t help but feel inspired and validated in his own path to August 19. All that’s left now is to make good on his belief in himself and love for the sport. 

“I'm going to be there 100 percent,” he said. “That's what I know. When I step there, that's going to be the same Gregory that worked through this whole journey to be here. I know that’s all I need to raise my arm up and finish this fight. I’m ready for that.”

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UFC 292: Sterling vs O'Malley took place live from TD Garden in Boston on August 19, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass