A few months ago, Thomas Almeida was quoted as saying that he wanted to fight former WEC champion Urijah Faber for his next bout after winning four in a row to start his UFC career.
Instead of Faber, Almeida got his teammate and rising bantamweight star Cody Garbrandt in a fight that will be the main event of the UFC Fight Night card from Las Vegas this Sunday night airing live on FS1 starting at 9:00 p.m. ET.
Speaking to FOX Sports from Brazil, Almeida clarified those original statements and said he never called out Faber, but just thought it would be the kind of fight that would move him forward in his ultimate pursuit of the bantamweight title.
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Because Faber wasn't available, Almeida is more than happy to knock off his top prospect and teammate instead.
"I actually did not ask to fight Faber, I just let him know that I wanted to face big names in the division. I admire Faber, he's a great fighter but nothing personal," Almeida said. "I just want to fight the best. Now with Cody, he's a very tough fighter, too, and I want to get a win to move forward to get a title shot."
As he heads into his first main event, expectations on Almeida are exceedingly high after he's managed to put together an incredible 21-0 record with only one decision during that undefeated streak.
Almeida has been mentioned as the next great contender out of Brazil and that kind of hype typically comes with a mountain of pressure as well.
The 24-year-old phenom doesn't allow any of those comments to permeate his mind as he prepares for a fight, however, because Almeida knows as long as he focuses on the task that's directly in front of him, nothing will knock him off course.
"I don't see this as pressure. I see this more like motivation that people are talking good things about me and I'm thankful for everybody who believes in me that I will be the next champion. I just have to keep working hard to live my dreams to become champion one day," Almeida said.
"I'm 100-percent focused on this fight right now. After the fight, after I see my performance and how I perform that night, after that I'll think about my future. For now, I want to focus on Cody. He's a great opponent and it will be a great step in my career."
Ahead of their fight this weekend, Almeida has been previously quoted as predicting the fight would end in the second round, but just like the Faber comment, he believes his words were slightly twisted.
Whether or not he was misquoted, Almeida's opponent fired back at him recently when speaking to FOX Sports and said that he would finish the fight in the first round by knockout.
Almeida doesn't care what Garbrandt has to say -- it only fuels him that much more to go out and get another spectacular knockout to add to his growing résumé of highlight reel finishes.
"Actually people changed my words a little bit. I didn't say I will finish him in the first round, I said I wanted to knock him out in the second round," Almeida clarified. "What he says is just big motivation for me. It will keep me motivated to do my best and do what I do best, which is my striking game and I hope we deliver a great show on Sunday night."
This will also be Almeida's first chance to prepare for a five round fight, although he doesn't expect Garbrandt to last the full 25 minutes.
Almeida won't predict exactly how the fight will end, but he knows his hand will be raised and it will be the perfect chance to take a huge step forward into the spotlight as he begins his pursuit of the bantamweight title.
"No doubt this fight won't go to decision," Almeida said. "I'll do my best to finish him, submit him or knock him out as soon as possible. Like I always say, I don't like to leave a fight for a decision for the judges. So I'll do my best to finish him inside the five rounds."
"It's a big chance for me and from now on every fight will be very important for my career. This fight, the whole world's going to watch it and that's a big thing for me. I just want to go there and do a great show and represent my country and my team."