Matt Schnell feels the path to the 125lb title goes through Deiveson Figueiredo — he just has no desire to fight the Brazilian in Sao Paulo, or anywhere else in Brazil.
Newark, NJ — Two events in a row. Two post-fight bonuses in a row. Welcome to the resurgence of the UFC flyweight division. At UFC 240 in Edmonton, it was Deiveson Figueiredo vs. Alexandre Pantoja claiming Fight of the Night. A week later at UFC Newark, Matt Schnell quickly claimed a Performance of the Night bonuses after a triangle choke of Jordan Espinosa.
The submission was the second fastest in flyweight division history, and the first ever triangle choke among 125lb’ers. “It’s interesting I suppose, but kind of sad too if you think about it,” Schnell told reporters including Cageside Press post-fight. “The first triangle in flyweight history? Well I did triangle Louis Smolka in my last fight, he is a flyweight, I’m a flyweight, so I count that.” The pair, however, were fighting at bantamweight at the time. “I mean cool, making history I suppose, but I try not to count up the nonsense. That doesn’t mean much to me. I’m out here trying to get wins and provide for my wife and family. I could care less about the things, the little bitty things along the way. That doesn’t mean anything to me.”
The finishing sequence seemed to feature a slick set-up for the triangle. Asked if it was one of his regular set-ups, Schnell answered “I guess so, it’s worked twice in a row now. Guillotine to triangle. Interesting.”
Adding to it, “he was hurt. You might not have been able to see it, but as he came in I think I clipped him behind the ear. He was face first in the mat. I think if I would have been able to separate and hammer fist him a couple times, it would have been a TKO victory. But we’ll take it. I’m always looking to finish.”
For evidence, “look at my body of work. I know what people say about this division, but I’m a finisher, always have been. A lot of first round finishes too. I’m going to keep on doing my thing.”
The flyweight situation has been a dicey one over the past year. “I’m happy to be here. It was scary there for a while for a lot of us flyweights, and I’m a survivor of the flyweight purge, and I’m happy to be here. I’ve said it for a long time and I truly believe it, I’m one of the best in the world. You put me in there with anybody, and I’m going to scrap.”
Schnell admitted, however, that when things were looking bleak, “I was afraid. I was afraid that I was going to be a casualty. Fortunately I survived. I kind of kept quiet, kept to myself, didn’t rock the boat and make a lot of noise, and it kept me afloat. And here we are. Hopefully they’re bringing this division back, and I can be a big part of it.”
As for whether the division is truly back, “We’ll see. Only time will tell. I think they need to sign more guys. I think this division needs an influx of young talent. There’s guys out there that are very good, that are on the outside looking in. Dustin Ortiz, sign Dustin Ortiz back, man that dude deserves it.”
Ortiz fought out the final fight of his UFC deal in January, and has not been seen in the promotion since. “I just want to see this division flourish,” Schnell said. “I’d like to reign supreme at the top.”
He has plenty of motivation. On Saturday at UFC Newark, Matt Schnell revealed his wife is pregnant with the pair’s first child. “It’s just in the back of my mind. All I could think about on my walk is my wife,” he said. “It’s been very emotional, fighting tears off all the time. I’m in an interesting place. Everything I have, I’ve worked for. I built this life with two hands. I tell people all the time, I don’t come from much. Never excelled at anything. Rode the bench my entire athletic career. I barely graduated at the bottom of my class in the state of Louisiana, which, I think it’s ranked at 48th in education. Graduated at the bottom of my class, never had many prospects to do much, and here I am, making a life for myself.”
When Schnell spoke to Cageside Press before the fight, he talked about the need for flyweights to create standout moments. That was another factor in the back of his mind Saturday.
“For sure. I wanted to clip him with this right hand and send him to the canvas. But we’ll take it. I’m a finisher,” he said. “There’s nowhere in the fight that you can put me that I’m not competent. I’ve been doing this for a long time, and I always try to fill in the gaps, and I understand my weaknesses, and I’m not afraid of them. We face them. Me and my coaches and my team, we talk about these things. We know what means to be shored up before we make that walk for the title.”
The path to that title shot, feels Schnell, could come after a showdown with Deiveson Figueiredo. He just doesn’t want that path taking a detour through Brazil. So scratch UFC Sao Paulo this fall, he told Cageside Press.
“No. I’m not going to Brazil. Hell no. He’s going to have to come here,” said Schnell. It’s an issue of trust, given how decisions often seem to go sideways in the nation, at least when Brazilian fighters are involved. “I refuse to go to Brazil. I’ve just seen too much. Deiveson Figueiredo got dropped on his head four or five times by Jarred Brooks, and lost a decision [though the scorecards said otherwise]. If that was in the United States, it could have been 30-25. I don’t know, he definitely didn’t win that fight. So no, I’m not going to Brazil.”
Watch the full UFC Newark post-fight press scrum with Matt Schnell above!