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Since winning season 23 of The Ultimate Fighter, Tatiana Suarez has been forced to sit on the sidelines due to injury as the strawweight division continued to progress.

After a year and a half hiatus, she is set to return at UFC Norfolk and will take on undefeated Brazilian prospect, Viviane Pereira.

Suarez was set to make her first UFC appearance since winning the show versus Julianna Lima back in December but had to pull out due to an arm injury. She underwent surgery on her right arm and has been on the road to recovery since. She will finally make her long awaited return this November 11th in her toughest test to date.

“I think Viviane is a very strong and experienced opponent her record reflects that,” Suarez said. “I have seen her fight both times. I was impressed by her boxing techniques.”

“I feel like she is most dangerous standing up. I haven’t seen her on the canvas too much. But, she’s a mixed martial artist so I assume she knows what she is doing. We just haven’t seen much of it from her.”

Coming off so much momentum from winning the Ultimate Fighter, Suarez’s hype was momentarily put to a halt due to the time away. When asked about any potential ring rust, the 4-0 Suarez feels the time off did her more good than bad.

“I feel very strong and I feel like I’m ready to get back in the octagon,” Suarez said. “Of course, injuries present a challenge for every athlete but I truly feel it also helped me address some issues I had with my training sessions. So I’m grateful for the challenge and I feel it has helped my career.”

Suarez, who is no stranger to adversity, has already gone through many ups and downs in her young career. Her successful wrestling career and Olympic aspirations came to an end when she found out she had thyroid cancer. Not only did she beat cancer, she made her way to the UFC octagon, conquering one battle after the other.

Photo by Tony Rotundo

“I feel like my hardships have forged me into a “no quit” “no stop” type of fighter. In my opinion those are the most troubling fighters to come across because it tires people out.”

During her most recent recovery process, she was able to keep herself busy outside of the octagon. She made numerous appearances on UFC Now alongside Karyn Bryant, Michael Bisping and Kenny Florian, breaking down her fellow fighters and techniques.

“Yes I did some work with UFC Now,” Suarez said. “I live an hour away from where they film so they gave me a call and asked if I’d like to try it out. I truly enjoyed doing the segment. I hope I can do some more stuff like that in the future.”

She’s been keeping a close eye on the strawweight division and is hoping that a win over Pereira will move her one step closer to the top of the division.

“I feel like the strawweight division is competitive but I feel I will be a contender soon to come. The key is to stay healthy and hopefully the UFC keeps me busy.”

Current champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk, who has successfully defended her strawweight title 5 times is rumoured to be fighting Rose Namajunas next. While so many fighters have failed to take the champion out, Suarez believes that they didn’t have enough tools to beat Joanna.

“I feel many have failed against her because they weren’t well rounded,” Suarez explained. “I feel that the only person she faced that was well rounded was Claudia Gadelha and she lost because her cardio gave out the last few rounds. But, in a three round fight I believe Claudia would beat her.”

“I feel like Rose is a tough competitor. I think she could get the job done. I guess we will find out, right?”

For now, Suarez is fully focused on the fellow undefeated Viviane Pereira and is confident she will get the job done in Norfolk.

“I see my hand being raised and I’m going to get it done using a well rounded nonstop type of fight.”