Rodrigo Nascimento went by loads in a decade between a shocking invitation on the door of a lan home in Brazil and his UFC debut.

Nascimento, who enters the octagon for the primary time to face Don’story Mayes at tonight’s UFC on ESPN eight present in Jacksonville, Fla., was a youngster when he put gloves on for the primary time. Born in Belo Horizonte, Nascimento “liked going to a lan home to play video games,” and that’s the place he met a person that modified his life ceaselessly.

Everton Rabelo de Andrade taught children and younger adults martial arts within the metropolis, and invited Nascimento to be a part of the staff. On Oct. 2010, {the teenager} entered his gymnasium “and educated each single day of the week, and by no means stopped.”

“He modified my life,” Nascimento tells MMA Preventing.

“Ze Colmeia,” the Portuguese identify for cartoon character Yogi Bear, was made enjoyable consistently within the class for being the final one to complete a race. It’s no shock, contemplating his earlier routine solely included enjoying Lineage, Killer Intuition and Avenue Fighter in entrance of a TV or pc.

“The primary time I educated was a big impact in my life,” Nascimento says. “I keep in mind (Junior dos Santos) ’Cigano’ was near turning into UFC champion, I noticed this man on TV and thought to myself, ‘F*ck, I wanna be like this man at some point.’ That was motivating. It was a dream for me. I labored arduous for a lot of, a few years, had so many highs and lows, and right here I’m — and ‘Cigano’ is my teammate now, talks to me each day.”

Nascimento now lives in Florida and trains alongside an extended record of UFC stars at American Prime Crew, however getting there wasn’t straightforward. “Ze Colmeia” made brief work of Cicero Augusto in his MMA debut as a lightweight heavyweight, stopping him in simply 42 seconds, however his world fell aside months later.

“I used to be slicing weight for my second struggle, I keep in mind interested by calling (de Andrade) to assist me reduce weight however for some purpose I didn’t,” Nascimento says, “after which I received a name from a good friend asking if I heard what occurred, that ‘Tom’ was useless. I couldn’t imagine it. I went there to see it for myself and it was true.”

“Tom Dangerous Boy” was useless at age 35. Nascimento entered the cage in Belo Horizonte two days later to compete as a tribute, however his opponent “left the sector earlier than the struggle.”

Nascimento stills carries the identical previous shirt he wore that night time, taking it to Jacksonville as a strategy to honor his late mentor on the MMA world’s largest stage.

“I take this shirt all over the place I am going,” he says. “It’s a approach of displaying how grateful I’m. Each time I struggle my opponent has an enormous drawback in entrance of him as a result of I’m not combating alone, I do know his vitality is there with me. This man modified my life. I want he was right here to see all this.”

Nascimento would have entered the octagon some time again, truly, however visa points knocked him and a number of other others out of the Brazilian version of Dana White’s Contender Sequence in 2018. He made probably the most of his second probability a yr later, impressing the UFC boss with a first-round end of Michal Martinek and inking a cope with he promotion.

“It was very arduous, however the whole lot modified in 2019,” Nascimento says. “That made me stronger and mature, and that makes a giant completely different in a struggle. Now we have no different alternative however proceed. I keep in mind watching the UFC the following week and considering, ‘F*ck, I’m not there.’ That’s once I realized what occurred and felt dangerous for some time. I received’t lie, it was arduous to get again on my ft, however thank God the whole lot went effectively.”

“Ze Colmeia” vs. “Lord Kong” was initially booked for UFC’s occasion on April 11, however then received pushed again two weeks because of the coronavirus pandemic. When the UFC additionally needed to pull the plug on that present, Nascimento’s bout with Mayes was moved to UFC on ESPN eight on Might 16.

“My opponent is hard, however I’m certain the whole lot will probably be alright and I’ll win,” he says. “I’m prepared, I’m centered. I do know he’s a harmful and unpredictable man and I’m not underestimating him, however I’ve a to extra to supply. I’m quicker, I’ve higher jiu-jitsu, I’m stronger than him. I simply have to stay calm, management my adrenaline and my coronary heart, and impose my sport and the whole lot we educated.”

Mayes’ additionally made his strategy to the UFC by the Contender Sequence, however needed to struggle 3 times in Dana White’s present earlier than being provided a contract. In his UFC debut, Mayes misplaced to rising heavyweight prospect Ciryl Gane through third-round submission.

“What actually caught my consideration is that he has coronary heart,” Nascimento says. “He’s not like most of those wimpy heavyweights that take a punch and retreat. This man is unpredictable, robust. I’m certain it’s gonna be a fantastic struggle.

“I see myself submitting him,” he provides. “Arm-triangle choke, anaconda choke, rear-naked choke… I’m certain it’s going to be a choke.”

Like in his previous lan home days, “Ze Colmeia” has to play good as a way to win.

“I don’t like video games that you just simply must kill, I like technique video games,” Nascimento says. “It’s identical to in a struggle, you’ll be able to’t flat out brawl.”