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Worry-free Carneiro ready to make impact in UFC return

Fighters are not like the rest of us.

Example No. 3675: Think of fighting one fight against one opponent. That would be stressful enough. Now think of fighting three opponents. In one night.

Roan Carneiro loved it.

“That was one of the best experiences I ever had in my life,” the UFC middleweight said. “It was amazing.”

Winner of four of fights since his last UFC appearance in 2008, Carneiro competed in a Tulsa, Oklahoma event in October of 2014 that went old school with a one-night tournament, and the Rio de Janeiro native won it, defeating Randall Wallace, Trey Houston and Brock Larson in succession.

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“I fought three guys, I showed I had power in striking and on the ground and wrestling as well,” he said. “It was difficult, but it wasn’t. Sometimes it’s kind of crazy. Sometimes I have one fight that’s more difficult than the time I had three fights in one night. It’s kind of weird, but I had fun.”

It wasn’t the first time “Jucao” did it either, fighting three times in one night in 2006. That night he lost in the finals, but there would be no such disappointment this time, and it may have been his ticket back to the Octagon, as he returned last February and scored a first-round submission win over Mark Munoz.

“It was great for me,” he said of the UFC 184 victory. “I definitely proved I’m still in the game and that I can beat any guy in the world. That made me happy.”

Then everything came to a halt, with an elbow injury scrapping a September bout against Gegard Mousasi and forcing Carneiro into surgery. He returns Sunday to face Derek Brunson in Pittsburgh’s UFC Fight Night co-main event, and while most would describe such a layoff as frustrating, Carneiro wouldn’t.

“These are things we have to deal with,” he said. “We are MMA fighters, so when you get hurt, it’s part of the game. I was upset a little bit, but not frustrated. Unfortunately, I had surgery and had to step back a little bit, but now I’m really, really motivated for the next one.”
 


That attitude is rare in any walk of life, especially in professional sports. But for the 37-year-old, the way he thinks today is why he’s having more success than he did during his first UFC run.

“The difference right now is I’m not carrying any responsibility anymore,” he explains. “I just go there and fight. At the time, there were too many things in my mind at the same time – I moved to the United States, went through the transition from Brazil to living in America, and I carried too much responsibility. I shouldn’t have, but I did. I don’t know why. But at this time, I just go train and have fun. I used to worry, but now I don’t worry anymore.”

Carneiro went 2-3 the first time around in the UFC, and he’s gone 8-1 since. Life has settled down for the family man and respected fighter and coach, and now that he’s fighting at middleweight, that’s been a bonus as well.

“The good thing is that I don’t really worry about the diet right now,” he said. “The training is a little bit harder because you’re training with guys that are a little bit bigger than usual, but I’m enjoying eating whatever I can and I don’t have to lose a lot of weight. I can’t complain. God has blessed me a lot and that’s what it’s all about. Fight, be happy, train and have good people around you.”

And if the UFC ever brought back a one-night tournament, “Jucao” is in.

“One hundred percent,” he laughs. “I love that idea of fighting two or three fights in one night. It would be a spectacular event.”

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