Dhiego Lima was a competitor on The Ultimate Fighter 19 nearly two years ago and made it all the way to the finals after winning three bouts in the house. Lima fell short at the TUF 19 Finale, dropping an early knockout loss to Eddie Gordon.
“It sucked, it really sucked,” Lima told BloodyElbow.com’s The MMA Circus. “I really wanted it really bad, I worked so hard for it. It messed me up on it. I trained so hard, by the time came, I was just so over-trained. It is what is is, I moved on, I still got the contract. But it was devastating, I really wanted it.”
The Ultimate Fighter can be a completely different experience for each fighter on the show. Some fighters enjoy competing on the reality show, as they have a good time, gain mixed martial arts experience and possibly even earn a contract with the UFC. Others don’t exactly have the best time of their life, resulting in a poor experience. For Lima, it was the former.
“It wasn’t bad at all, actually,” he said. “It was pretty much everything a fighter could ask for. The good thing about our season is that most of the guys were experienced fighters. They really wanted to be there to win. There was really nobody that wanted to be there for TV, put into an act, none of that. So our season was better because of that. It was awesome man. You were just there to train. There were no headaches on the outside, no social media, nothing. You just focus on yourself, focus on fighting. It was one of the best experiences of my life.”
After the Gordon loss, Lima rebounded with a unanimous decision win, but lost by first-round knockout twice more, resulting in his release from the organization. Up until last month, the 27-year-old was sidelined since his last UFC loss over a year ago. Lima picked up a dominant win over Antonio Trocoli at Legacy FC 53 in April, and he was happier with this than his lone UFC victory.
“It felt amazing, it felt really amazing,” he said. “That was a better feeling than even winning in the UFC for me. I really needed that, coming off those tough losses, it was hurting me. I was really, happy with that. I really enjoyed it. I did what I had to do to win. I had to get back into the winning column. I really wanted to let my game go a little more, but that was a big son of a gun. That dude was 6″5. I knew he was going to be long, but I really didn’t know he was going to be that long. He was a tough fight for me, he really was. Just dealing with all the other pressure. And then I was fighting at home. So I had a lot of adversity to fight against him and I dominated the fight and that’s all I could ask for.”
Lima wasn’t injured during the time off, but instead chose to sit on the sidelines for nearly a year to rest and improve his skill-set.
“I was just over-trained,” he said. “I needed it. I should’ve taken it right after the house. When I went to the house, I had four fights in a six-week period. Because I had just fought before I went into the house, and it was three fights back-to-back-to-back. I should’ve taken the time off way before. I didn’t, and you saw what happened in the UFC because of it. So, [it was] just a no-brainer there. I just needed a long time off, just to sink everything in, re-group. You saw my performance there. That’s all I needed. I’m back now, man. I feel 100%. I’m back. I’m officially back.”
Lima was heavily criticized during his UFC run for his ability to take a punch, but the Brazilian doesn’t believe he has a “weak” chin, nor does he blame any of his UFC losses on those potential issues. He believes he got caught in all three of his UFC losses. And considering we’re talking about mixed martial arts, that’s very possible.
“I’m only 27,” he said. “Those fights, I really didn’t really get knocked out. I got hit on the side of the head, I got hit on the temple. That shakes you up, you lose your balance. The guys I fought were good at following up. It happens, a fight’s a fight. Everybody gets knocked out. Look at all these older guys now. Look at Michael Bisping going for a title shot, look at what Dan Henderson did to him. He’s been taking shots his whole life. [Fans are] so quick to criticize you, but they don’t know what you go through. They don’t know anything about you. They’re going to judge me by that, of course, that’s my fault. I got TKO’d three times. I just gotta go in there and perform.”
Instead, Lima blames his trio of UFC losses on over-training, which is what caused him to sit on the sidelines for nearly a year, as mentioned above.
“I changed my lifestyle, I’m healthy. The biggest thing is to be healthy and not over-train. I feel like I got TKO’d because I was pretty much done before the fight even started. I was so over-trained, I just wanted to be out of there. I was just so tired. I lost before I even got in there. I’m not making that mistake anymore. I’m healthy. If I’m coming in healthy, that’s not even an issue. That’s not something that even goes through my head, ‘Oh man, I can’t get hit.’ Oh, no, no. I can take a shot. If guys want to look at that, if guys want to judge me by that, then I hope fighters do judge me by that and come wild at me. They’re going to find out real quick.”
Lima sees a return to the UFC in his foreseeable future if everything goes as planned, including winning his upcoming title fight against David Michaud at Titan FC 39 next month.
“Definitely man, I think so,” he said. “I just gotta perform to my full potential. Dana White knows what I’m all about. He remembers me from the house. He liked me from way back then. I just gotta perform man. In the UFC, I don’t know, the pressure got to me, I don’t know what happened. I didn’t perform to my full potential. I don’t train like that, I did nothing I do in training [in those] fights. If I just perform the way I train, nobody’s going to stop me. I’m going to finish these fights, and that’s what I’m looking to do. I feel like I finally got that maturity where I can fight the way I train. And it’s really going to show off.”
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