Ketlen Vieira enters the first main event of her UFC career Saturday night against former 135-pound champion Miesha Tate, and she sees possible title implications on the line.
Tate walked away from the sport after losing back-to-back fights to Amanda Nunes and Raquel Pennington in 2016, but decided to resume her MMA career earlier this year. Vieira can’t compare her opponent’s recent performance to those in the past, but noted that she believes Tate is “still the same Miesha Tate of always.”
“I was very happy with her return because she’s a great athlete,” Vieira told MMA Fighting. “I found her retirement to be premature but I believe she had her plans, and I was very happy she’s back, another great athlete returning to the UFC. She performed really well, it’s not easy to come back with a win after such a long time away.
“One of my main goals in the UFC, aside from being champion, is to fight the best.”
Tate, who finished Marion Reneau this past July after nearly five years as a retired athlete, holds MMA wins over the likes of Holly Holm and Marloes Coenen.
Vieira calls her UFC Vegas 43 clash with Tate “the most important fight of my career so far” and believes a win over the former UFC and Strikeforce titleholder could lead to a spot in the top 5, but doesn’t want to think ahead.
That said, the Nova Uniao fighter also believes that an impressive victory could mean an immediate shot at gold against the winner of December’s Amanda Nunes vs. Julianna Pena title bout.
“If that’s what God wants, I’ll be ready,” Vieira said. “I do believe a victory could put me in this position. That’s one of the reasons why I gave everything I got in this camp and came well-prepared.
“All I can guarantee is I’m ready to fight five rounds. It was a wonderful camp where I had to overcome a lot every single day and believe in myself. I was put at test and went through the worst possible scenario ahead of this fight. The only thing I can tell you is that I’m going for the victory at all times. She wants to become champion again and so do I. It’s going to be a very tough fight for both of us.”
Unlike Tate, “Fenomeno” has never been in a five-round fight before in her MMA career. Vieira admits that’s one advantage Tate has over her at UFC Vegas 43 — and is the reason why Vieira worked hard to prepare for Saturday.
“She’s an extremely experienced athlete that has been though all types of adverse situations,” Vieira said. “Long fights, comeback fights, so nothing I present to her will be new to her, right? That’s the reason why I’m so focused and so confident in the training I’ve done, in what my coaches told me. I’ll listen to my corners and feel the fight. It’s going to be a big fight.”