UFC 303: Diego Lopes Feels “Being Myself” Has Helped Him Connect with Fans

Las Vegas — Featherweight Diego Lopes finds himself in a short-notice opportunity against Brian Ortega at UFC 303, continuing his impressive rise in the promotion.

Since a short-notice fight with Movsar Evloev in May of 2023, Lopes (24-6) has soared like a shooting star, notching wins over Gavin Tucker, Pat Sabatini, and most recently, “Super” Sodiq Yusuff. That bout came at the historic UFC 300.

“I think it’s been an incredible journey. I think after that win, I’ve been improving, I’ve been surpassing people’s expectations,” Lopes told media outlets including Cageside Press during the UFC 303 media day on Wednesday. “After this, I have the confidence. That’s what led to the moment, that I’m here, to be in such an important card.”

Now, he gets Brian Ortega in the UFC 303 co-main event, a fighter who, as he noted, “that’s top 3, that’s fought for the title. My opportunity to actually be in the top 5. I think it was just a matter of working out a couple of the kinks, but I had no doubt. My answer was yes right away.”

On the match-up, Lopes, who serves as Alexa Grasso’s jiu-jitsu coach, explained that “I think Brian’s a good fighter. He has so, so much experience in the UFC. The guy’s been here a long time.”

There’s one stark contrast between the two in his estimation, however. “I think the difference is, I’m so explosive [in] the fight. I think Brian has good jiu-jitsu, good boxing, but I have good jiu-jitsu, good boxing too. I hope it’s a great fight for Saturday night. I’m ready.”

Lopes also believes that it comes down to more than just winning. “It’s not just about winning the fight, but winning in a sound manner. If I win in a dominant fashion, I think my name is going to be out there to be considered for the title.”

Dominance in a Diego Lopes fight might often come on the ground, but Brian Ortega himself is known as a solid grappler. Still, Lopes questions how much experience his opponent has at the highest of levels.

“I don’t know how much Brian has actually competed in high-level jiu-jitsu only. I’ve been doing this since five years old, talking about regional competitions, national, international competitions when I was back in Brazil.  So I think that if we’re going to go straight-up jiu-jitsu, I think I would be the one.”

Lopes is one of a handful of fighters from outside the U.S. who has connected with the American fanbase. That is something the Brazilian chalks up to, in part, just being authentic.

“I think it’s the sum of a lot of things. I think I’ve been very natural, I think I’ve been myself. By being myself, I mean I don’t try to force things, I don’t try to be a person that I’m not,” he told Cageside Press on Wednesday. “And I think that I’ve always tried to get closer to fans as well. That’s one of the reasons I’m improving my English, so I can actually communicate with the fanbase. But I think also the hair plays a part in it as well.”

Watch the full UFC 303 media day appearance by Diego Lopes above.