Las Vegas, NV — Thomas Almeida made his return to the octagon after over two and a half years away last October. It did not go his way.
Almeida (22-4) had expected to go up against Alejandro Perez — but that was scrapped due to COVID-19. Instead, he faced Jonathan Martinez, which was “really enough” to throw him off his game, he explained during the UFC 260 media day on Wednesday. “Especially because they changed the opponent, on six days I think. A regular one, then a southpaw. So they changed completely. It’s kind of hard, but it is what it is. You’ve got to go out there and fight. I did, it didn’t go my way, but now I have another great opportunity to show my skills.”
The great opportunity comes in a high-profile fight on the UFC 260 PPV, opposite young star Sean O’Malley.
“I’m super excited. Sean is a great fighter, super-talented guy,” Almeida stated in regards to the match-up. “But I know if I go in there and throw all the tools that I have, I’m going to win for sure.”
There has been plenty of talk about O’Malley’s place in the sport ahead of this fight. Is he an elite level fighter? Did his first loss, to Marlon Vera, expose him? O’Malley has struggled to accept that defeat, continually calling himself an undefeated fighter online. Almeida believes that when it comes to O’Malley, “I really think he’s an elite fighter, but he needs to show that. He’s a good fighter, but he needs to show [up] and prove it.”
As for the “Sugar Show” and his “fragile” body, another big topic of conversation when it comes to O’Malley, Almeida noted that “I’m sure that we’re going to explore that, for sure. Throw some leg kicks to open up the game. But I don’t know. I have to see, inside the cage, how he reacts to some kicks.”
Ultimately, Almeida knows that this is an important fight for his own career. Still just 29, the Brazilian has been with the UFC since 2014. He’s 0-3 in his last three fights, however. A fourth loss could be devastating to his career.
“This is for sure a must-win. I always go for the victory. I put pressure on myself to win, win, win,” he observed. “That’s it.”
Thomas Almeida faces Sean O’Malley at UFC 260 on Saturday, March 27 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada. You can view his full media day scrum above.