Thomas Almeida aiming for March return, wants top 10 or top 5 opponent next

Thomas Almeida bounced back emphatically from his first pro loss to now bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt by dispatching of Albert Morales at UFC Sao Paulo this past November. Currently ranked at number 10, he now has his sights set on the top 10, looking to climb the rankings.

The 25 year old Brazilian notched yet another highlight reel finish when he backed Morales up and unleashed a flurry of strikes. It was ultimately the body shot that sent Morales to the canvas and gave Almeida his 5th performance bonus.

In a pivotal fight in Almeida’s career, the exciting young fighter was fully aware of Morales’ aggressiveness and worked up a perfect game plan to impose his will.

“Albert is a very aggressive fighter and I’m the same so I expected that he was going to try and knock me out,” Almeida said. “I prepared for the fight that he was going to be aggressive. I knew he had good jiu-jitsu skills but I practiced a lot with the best jiu-jitsu guys in the world. I was relaxed and confident. He tried to use his reach; his arms are longer than mine so I had a good game plan.”

Almeida, who was criticized in the past for his over aggressive style, focused a lot on his footwork to make sure he was in and out at the right times. He knew that he had a lot to lose in this fight as Morales was a relatively new and unranked opponent but very tough nonetheless.

“I trained very hard for the fight. Using my footwork, being patient and aggressive in the right times you know. I knew it was never going to happen, that he was going to knock me out so I was 100% confident in my skills. I feel pressure in all the fights to win and get the victory so it was just another fight. Fighting in my hometown was very important for me so it was a good victory.”

He had yet another spectacular night in his hometown of Sao Paulo as around the same time last year, he scored a knockout win over Anthony Birchak. Almeida is one of Brazil’s brightest rising stars.

“It’s an amazing feeling fighting here in my hometown in front of my family and friends,” Almeida said. “In the beginning of my career my parents didn’t watch me fight but now they’re my number one fans and this is very important for me.”

Now he is ready to get back to action as he eyes a March return. The UFC is set to return to Brazil in March, this time in Fortaleza but Almeida won’t limit himself to fighting in Brazil.

“Yeah it’s always good fighting in Brazil but I just want to fight. It doesn’t matter where I fight. In Vegas, in Europe, in Brazil, it doesn’t matter, I just want to fight like a top 10 or top 5 fighter.”

A big opportunity opened up as Bryan Caraway was forced out of his January 15th fight versus Jimmie Rivera in Phoenix. When asked if he would step in, Almeida said it’s too short notice but would be interested in fighting either guy in a couple of months.

“Bryan Caraway, Jimmie Rivera, any of the top 10 guys are good. I think Michael McDonald would be a great show for the fans, a fight between two strikers.”

Almeida’s only professional loss came to Cody Garbrandt, who dethroned Dominick Cruz last week to become the new bantamweight champion. Almeida admits he was surprised with the outcome but is motivated to climb his way back to a potential rematch in the future.

“It was a battle,” Almeida said of Cruz versus Garbrandt. “Cody has good power in his hands and Dominick has speed but Cody was able to get him. He had like 3 knockdowns and this is the problem, he has powerful hands. I thought Dominick should have used more takedowns.”

“I think if I get like 2 wins, I can ask for the rematch with Cody for the belt maybe. It would be great.”

Looking for a more active year, Almeida is aiming for at least 3 fights in 2017 and wants to start his title shot campaign in March. A top 10, a top 5 then a title shot would be the ideal situation for the knockout artist who remains one of the most exciting fighters in the UFC.