by Al Yu – MMAWeekly.com
Lightweight prospect Thiago Tavares will make his UFC debut at UFC Fight Night 9 this tonight. Recently arriving in the U.S., the undefeated Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt spoke with MMAWeekly about tonight’s fight against ZST and Rings veteran Naoyuki Kotani. The Ataque Duplo Team fighter looks to make an impact in the UFC’s flourishing lightweight division.

MMAWeekly: Hi Thiago, thank you for taking time out of your schedule.

Thiago Tavares: My pleasure.

MMAWeekly: How is training coming along? Are you training with anyone in particular?

Thiago Tavares: I have been training very hard and am 100% focused on this next fight. I had special help from Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira over the last couple of days. It was really great for my game and helped in developing my strategy.

MMAWeekly: What is it like training under the tutelage of Murilo Rupp?

Thiago Tavares: It’s great. We know each other very well and he’s a great teacher. He’s preparing me well for this fight.

MMAWeekly: Who would you say has been the biggest influence in your MMA career so far?

Thiago Tavares: I would have to say Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Gesias Calvancanti and my father.

MMAWeekly: You’re facing Naoyuki Kotani on April 5th. What do you think of your opponent?

Thiago Tavares: My opponent is very experienced. He has 26 fights under his belt and has fought against many top guys in this weight division. He is very good on the ground and has good submissions. I will try to keep the fight standing; I’m going for a knock-out. It’ll be a good fight and we will entertain the crowd.

MMAWeekly: Does Kotani’s experience intimidate you? Have you seen any weaknesses in Kotani’s game?

Thiago Tavares: Not at all. I do see his weaknesses. It doesn’t matter though; he’ll bring his game and I’ll bring mine. We’ll see what happens.

MMAWeekly: Almost every fighter making their debut in the UFC said they were very nervous.

Thiago Tavares: Fighting in the UFC is a dream coming true. I’ve been waiting for this moment since I was a little child in my home town of Florianopolis. I am ready.

MMAWeekly: Coming into this fight, you have a perfect professional record of 11-0. Does being undefeated put any additional pressure on you?

Thiago Tavares: Not really. Being undefeated makes me wake up every day thinking that I have much more to show.

MMAWeekly: …so you love your job?

Thiago Tavares: I love my job [laughs].

MMAWeekly: Since its reintroduction, the UFC’s lightweight division has flourished with new talent. How do you see yourself fitting into the division?

Thiago Tavares: As a Champion, no less. I know I have a long journey ahead of me. I must display my talent and skills and I feel very prepared.

MMAWeekly: Is there anyone in particular that you would like to fight?

Thiago Tavares: I want to be the UFC Lightweight Champion of the world. In order for me to do that, I have to face the best fighters. I will fight anyone.

MMAWeekly: Anyone you wouldn’t fight?

Thiago Tavares: No.

MMAWeekly: The Fertitta brothers, owners of the UFC, recently made history with the purchase of Pride Fighting Championships. What are your thoughts on the sale of Pride?

Thiago Tavares: It’s very important for MMA. Fighters from the UFC now have the opportunity to fight in Pride and vice-versa. I would like to fight at next Pride Lightweight Grand Prix.

MMAWeekly: I would like to see you participate. The next Lightweight GP could be one of the best tournaments in Pride history; the potential list of fighters is impressive.

Thiago Tavares: Yes it is. I’m very happy to be in a good organization such as the UFC. It would be a huge honor to represent the UFC in the GP.

MMAWeekly: This is slightly off topic but do you plan on participating in any Jiu-Jitsu competitions in the future?

Thiago Tavares: Who knows? It depends.

MMAWeekly: Is there anything you would like to say to the fans?

Thiago Tavares: I promise to do my best to win and eventually bring the belt back to my country. I know it’s a long journey but I have God by my side.