Brazilian flyweight Matheus Nicolau returns at UFC Vegas 21, not just to action, but to the UFC itself.
Nicolau (15-2-1) was unceremoniously dumped by the promotion in 2018 despite having posted a 3-1 record. A single loss was all it took to cut the TUF Brazil 4 alum, despite his three previous wins and solid record. But at the time, flyweight was persona non grata in the UFC. The weight class was on the bubble, expected to be mothballed.
It didn’t happen. And now, Nicolau returns, paired up against former RIZIN champ Manel Kape, who steps in on short notice.
“It was a nice call, it caught me by surprise,” admitted Nicolau, speaking to Cageside Press during the UFC Vegas 21 virtual media day. “I got really honored, and really really happy to be back in the UFC.”
Just why, exactly, is Nicolau back? Why is the suddenly red-hot flyweight division alive at all? Four words: The King of Cringe.
“We can’t deny that what Henry [Cejudo] did was something that really makes flyweight alive,” said Nicolau. “His victory against [TJ] Dillashaw, and then his other victories in the bantamweight division, I think was a good message that we have really really good fighters in the flyweight division.” The other flyweight fighters have been working hard as well, especially now that the UFC has attracted a lot of good 125lb fighters, Nicolau added — making for a lot of great fights in the flyweight division. “But for sure, I think Henry Cejudo needs all the credit for the flyweight division.”
On the match-up with Kape this Saturday night, the Brazilian noted that “he’s a great opponent. Really dangerous, he’s got nice finishes, good submissions, but he’s the type of challenge that I want. He’s the type of challenge that will put me on the top of the division. That’s my goal, that’s what I want.”
And the path to the top starts anew on Saturday at UFC Vegas 21.
Watch the full UFC Vegas 21 virtual media day scrum with Matheus Nicolau above. The event takes place this Saturday, March 13 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.