UFC Vegas: Augusto Sakai Says “Willpower” Key to His Continued Success

UFC heavyweight Augusto Sakai had an interesting road to the UFC. Earlier in his career, he spent time in Bellator MMA, never reaching star status, but having enough success to land a fight with Cheick Kongo in 2017.

It didn’t go his way — but Sakai hasn’t lost since. Instead, he embarked on a five-fight win streak that includes a Contender Series appearance, plus three wins in the UFC proper. A pretty solid run for the Brazilian grandson of Japanese immigrants, who puts in time working at an aquarium when he’s not fighting.

He returns this Saturday at UFC Vegas, taking on a formidable foe in Blagoy Ivanov.

“I think it’s really about willpower,” Sakai told Cageside Press at the UFC Vegas virtual media day, when asked about the key to his success. “You know, I really want to get to the top, I really want to be the champion. And I think that’s really what’s made the difference in my career.”

The heavyweight is in the spotlight this time out — but he’s not feeling any extra pressure, despite the fight being an important step in that goal of becoming UFC heavyweight champion.

“It’s really motivation to me. It’s something I’ve been looking for, that I’ve been running after for many years,” he said. “So I don’t see it as pressure, it’s all motivation to be able to finally be here.”

Sakai and Ivanov shared a home in Bellator, where the Bulgarian made it to the finale of the season ten heavyweight tournament. Despite putting time in under the same banner, however, Sakai told us that Ivanov was never really on his radar. Until now.

“I never imagined that I would be facing him,” he admitted, “but here we are.”

UFC on ESPN 9 goes down this Saturday, May 30 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, NV. The event airs live on ESPN (TSN in Canada).