LAS VEGAS – Ahead of the first UFC main event of her career, Ketlen Vieira does not attempt to hide the challenge that lays ahead in facing former women’s bantamweight champion Miesha Tate.
“This is the most difficult fight of my career because it’s also the best fight that I can have,” Vieira told MMA Junkie through an interpreter at Wednesday’s media day at the UFC Apex. “I’m very happy because she has a very great story in the sport, and that also motivates me to do my best in there.”
Vieira (11-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC) and Tate (19-7 MMA, 6-4 UFC) meet in the headlining bout of Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 198 event, which streams live on ESPN+ from the UFC Apex. It’s a very meaningful fight at 135 pounds, with Vieira currently at No. 9 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMA Junkie women’s bantamweight rankings, and Tate just behind at No. 10.
Vieira knows it’s the highest-profile fight of her career to date.
“I’m very grateful, especially because I’m doing my first main event here in Las Vegas against a former champion, so I’m very grateful,” Vieira said.
Vieira made her UFC debut just one month before Tate abruptly retired from the sport in 2016, so it may seem a bit odd that they’re now meeting five years later, but the Brazilian contender believes it makes sense for “Cupcake” to be back and competing again.
“I always thought that she retired too soon,” Vieira said. “I always followed her work. I always admired her.”
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For her part, Tate has insisted that she’s actually a better fighter now than she was when she was a UFC titleholder. She returned to the sport in July and scored a third-round stoppage of Marion Reneau, and Vieira said she has no issues with Tate’s claims.
“I do believe she’s in her best shape because you can see by her physique, like the pictures she showed on social media – and also, if somebody that has her experience didn’t believe that they actually are in their best shape, like they want to go to become a champion, she wouldn’t have come back,” Vieira said. “So that makes me even more motivated and happy to actually be there and face a great opponent.”
Tate believes with a win over Vieira, she can prove that she’s worthy of contesting for a title once again. Vieira, however, chooses not to focus on where she’ll be after a win. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that she seemed to be primed for her own shot at a UFC belt before a loss to Irene Aldana derailed all of that momentum.
That said, Vieira absolutely understands the importance of the fight in front of her, as well as what could come her way with a win. She just doesn’t want to worry about that all ahead of Saturday night.
“I’d like to take one step at a time,” Vieira said. “I don’t like to focus on the after because I did that in the past, but I was thinking about what’s going to happen in the future and then everything didn’t go the way I wanted. So right now, I prefer to take one step at a time and then think about after, after I beat Miesha.”
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