UFC 288: Diego Lopes on Juggling Fighting, Coaching Duties

Newark, NJ — Diego Lopes might be new to the UFC, but he’s far from new to combat sports.

Stepping in to replace Bryce Mitchell against Movsar Evloev this Saturday at UFC 288 in Newark, Lopes (21-5) arrives in the UFC in tried and tested fashion: as a short-notice call-up getting the nod to save a fight.

But Lopes has been knocking on the door of the UFC for a while. He appeared on Dana White’s Contender Series in 2021, falling short against Joanderson Brito. He’s also been working as a coach, a role (jiu-jitsu coach, to be exact) he serves for Irene Aldana, who just landed herself a title fight against Amanda Nunes.

He’d been working with Aldana, in fact, ahead of his opportunity at UFC 288 this weekend.

“The energy is really good, we were already having such a great camp for her to fight Raquel Pennington. As soon as I got to Jersey, I got the news that she was going to fight against Amanda on June 10,” Lopes explained during Wednesday’s media day, speaking to outlets including Cageside Press. “It just means that the work we’re putting in, it’s paying off.”

Juggling the roles of fighter and coach might seem daunting to some, but Lopes appears confident heading into his fight with Evloev, an undefeated former M-1 champ.

“I always try to share the load as much as possible,” noted Lopes. “I know a lot of people have to make a choice between being a fighter or a coach, but I think I’m at a good age to be fighting still, and I’m very happy with the opportunity in the fight on Saturday.”

As far as how the opportunity to step into the fight came to him, it boils down to keeping an eye on the division.

“I’m always kind of tune in to my division, to the guys in my division,” the featherweight stated. “And I’m always also training to be in a fight. So I obviously wasn’t expecting it, but I was prepared.”

Watch the full UFC 288 media day appearance by Diego Lopes above.