Luis Henrique landed on his feet.
Almost a year to the date of the last time he entered the UFC cage, the Brazilian heavyweight has the chance to claim the title of a major promotion in Europe as he meets KSW champion Phil de Fries in the main event of Saturday’s KSW 50 at the SSE Arena in London.
“Life is full of turnarounds,” Henrique told MMA Fighting ahead of the first title fight of his MMA career. “A year ago I was released by the UFC, which made me really sad, but I remained focused, training hard, seeking evolution, and opportunities came knocking on my door.”
Henrique started his UFC career in 2015, losing to fellow promotional newcomer Francis N’Gannou. “KLB” submitted Dmitry Smolyakov and Christian Colombo in his following bouts before a three-fight skid results in his release. His final appearance in the Octagon was at light heavyweight, a decision to Ryan Spann he still feels he should have won.
“I have nothing to complain about,” Henrique said. “I think I won that last fight but they gave it to him, no problem. That’s life. It was a tough fight, a great fight. It was a loss but a win at the same time for me, you know? I left the promotion, but good things came with that fight. A lot of people came to me saying it was one of the best fights of my career and I was really happy with that. I was persistent, resilient, and kept working. Good results don’t come overnight.”
Henrique went back up to heavyweight after parting ways with the UFC and won two in a row since, but doesn’t rule out returning to 205 pounds in the future.
“I think about going to 205, but people keep offering me fights at heavyweight and I accept them,” Henrique said. “I can fight at both light heavyweight and heavyweight. Whatever they offer, I’m in. I train all year, I never take time off or anything like that, so I’m always prepared. The advantage of fighting at heavyweight is that I don’t have to cut weight.”
The TFT fighter walks around 242 pounds and would need “at least six weeks” to prepare for a fight at light heavyweight. If victorious against de Fries, Henrique would not rule out going after a second title at KSW by challenging Tomasz Narkun.
“I do think about that, man. I think about winning two titles,” Henrique said. “I was talking to my coach Tatá (Duarte) about that the other day. Let’s see what happens. Let’s fight this one, beat this guy up and, God willing, we’ll have an offer to fight at 205 as well.”
Henrique is not looking past de Fries, though.
After finishing Michal Andryszak in his KSW debut in May, “KLB” plans to once again use his guillotine choke to come out victorious in Europe. de Fries is a good opponent “but I’m better than him in everything,” he said, and “nothing (he does) gets my attention.”
“It’s not a good match-up for him,” Henrique said. “He likes to grapple and stay on top to ground and pound, but I don’t think he has any takedowns to surprise me, you know? I can surprise him on top if I get him to the ground, which would be the best of all worlds.”
“I see myself tapping him with a guillotine,” he continued. “He’ll expose his neck while going for a takedown. I don’t have to pull guard to get a guillotine. I have a safe guillotine that even if I don’t finish you, I’ll stay on top after all. I’ll take that belt away from him, then he can do whatever he wants with his life.”