by Al Yu – MMAWeekly.com
Thales Leites returns to the Octagon at UFC 85 on Saturday night in London, England. The Brazilian fighter will finally face Nathan Marquardt, a fight that has already eluded him twice before.

“Yes, I’m relieved,” laughed Leites.

The Nova Uniao fighter was originally slated to make his UFC debut against Marquardt on the main card of Ortiz vs. Shamrock 3 – The Final Chapter. However, Leites was unable to make it to the U.S. due complications in obtaining a visa. The fight was later rescheduled for UFC 81, but a broken hand sustained in training forced Leites to withdraw from the fight.

Now both fighters are in London prepared for their middleweight showdown. Cornering Leites will be Nova Uniao founder and leader Andre Pederneiras and Marcelo Mello.

“My hand is 100%,” said Leites. “I am ready. This is my first time in England. Fighting in London will be a new experience for me and I’m very excited to be there. I think I’m going to be very comfortable in England.”

In preparation for this fight, Thales spent some time in the U.S. to train with fellow teammate and decorated grappler Gustavo Dantas at Arizona Combat Sports. The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt focused on improving his wrestling while staying sharp with his grappling.

Since losing his Octagon debut against Martin Kampmann, Leites has compiled three straight victories. He is coming off of a submission win over Ryan Jensen at UFC 74.

Marquardt, a seven-time former King of Pancrase, made his UFC debut at the inaugural Ultimate Fight Night in 2005. The Colorado resident built himself up to title contender status, winning four straight in the Octagon including wins over Ivan Salaverry, Joe Doerksen and Dean Lister.

He challenged middleweight champion Anderson Silva in July of last year, but succumbed to the dominant Brazilian via strikes in the opening round. Marquardt rebounded with a win over late replacement Jeremy Horn at UFC 81.

“Nathan is an excellent fighter and very experienced, very aggressive and technical, but everybody has a weakness and I will work on finding his,” commented Leites. “At this moment I think this will be the toughest fight of my career.

“I’ve seen his fights and my strategy will be the same always; take him down and work for submissions,” he added.

Anderson Silva has become one of the most dominating champions in the UFC today. Many potential contenders wait for their opportunity to challenge for his belt. The winner of this fight may earn a shot at facing Silva in the future.

“I want to thank all my fans for your support. I will be there 100%, looking for submissions all the time.”