The welterweight division is on notice that Thiago “Pitbull” Alves is back, and he’s looking to return to his ferocious ways.
Alves (18-8 MMA, 10-5 UFC) returns to the Octagon against Papy Abedi (8-0 MMA, 0-0 UFC) at UFC 138 on Spike TV and, with the full-time addition of famed coach Mike Dolce providing him with world class tutelage, he’s primed for a run to the top of the welterweight division.
Leading up to Saturday’s clash inside LG Arena at the National Exhibition Centre, Alves has linked all the pieces together for his televised bout against Abedi, in what is the first step in his climb to the championship.
“I feel great, this is the best I’ve ever felt in whole life,” Alves recently told BleacherReport.com. “The funny thing is, I went to the Doctor a few weeks ago and they did full blood work and he said, ‘Thiago, this is the healthiest you’ve ever been since I started working with you.’ I think I moved down here in 2004 if I’m not mistaken, but I feel great. I’ve been through so much in my personal life and my career, I’ve got a very positive attitude when it comes to everything, even all the problems that I faced. I believe it (will) only make me better, I got really high goals for myself to where I want to be in this sport.
“Teaming up with Mike was just the final link to get to that goal. Especially right now, working with not only the nutrition, but the strength and conditioning also. So, it’s a perfect blend, I was 189 (pounds) today (and) usually I hit the 80’s three (or) four days before the weigh-ins. I see the 80’s already, I feel great, my cardio is better than ever and through the roof and I’m ready to fight tonight if I have to. Just everything, when I met Mike I had this problem that I have to make weight otherwise I don’t know where my career is going to be, if I’m gonna have to move up weight or not, (the) second fight we did six weeks and just because I worked so hard between the camp I thought the fight was going to be easy. I didn’t want to work as hard, I still don’t think I lost the fight, but it’s in the past and I don’t want to dwell on that. But for the next fight, I said ‘Dolce, I want to do the whole camp with you. The guy’s a genius, he knows exactly what he’s doing, and I believe everything he says and it makes sense. I’ve been in the sport long enough to know if what they’re saying makes sense or not and it was the final link that was missing.”
Teaming with, and learning under, the tutelage of Dolce has Alves mentally and physically prepared for his sixteenth trip to the Octagon.
Dolce, who is widely regarded as one of the sport’s most knowledgeable coaches, couldn’t be more pleased with how Alves’ camp has come together, and he’s embraced every moment of his increased coaching role.
“I embrace it, I love it. I think what Thiago’s asked me to do as part of this camp fits perfectly with my skillset,” Dolce said. “And it compliments each of the things that I do. I’m blessed that Thiago has a great team of coaches behind him that we all work very well together. So, within this new role, I know we’re going to see the best version of Thiago Alves ever in this fight. I say that with supreme confidence.”
Alves believes that it takes time to find the appropriate team, and if UFC middleweight champion and pound-for-pound great Anderson Silva is any indication, Alves may be correct.
Silva suffered defeat three times between 2003-2006 before his dominant reign in the UFC. A highly motivated Alves believes that he’s found all the pieces to the championship puzzle prior to UFC 138.
“It takes about two or three years to find yourself, find a great frequency with all the coaches, with the lifestyle, and I truly know that I have that now,” Alves said. “I have a great team behind me, Dolce’s came to blend in everything, I’m more comfortable with my striking coach, my jiu-jitsu, my wrestling coach, and Dolce coming in to take care of the whole body physiology, the nutrition, the strength and conditioning. This (is) the best I’ve ever been, I’m much more hungry and rising in the UFC and now is just put the pieces in place and go all the way to the top.”
Alves is a far different fighter than the one who dominated Matt Hughes, Josh Koscheck, Karo Parisyan and Chris Lytle en route to the top of the welterweight division in 2009.
According to Dolce, Alves is a vastly improved version from the one who nearly cleaned out the division two years ago, and their sole focus is on destroying organizational newcomer Papy Abedi.
“First and foremost is the destruction of Papy Abedi at UFC 138,” Dolce said. “That’s the only thing on our plan right now. Knowing that we have to get through that first hurdle to get to the next and part of what we’ve done is we’ve taken the pressure off Thiago. He’s one of the most well-known fighters in the world, he gets mobbed everywhere he goes, and to get him away from that mentality because there’s a lot of pressure there and just let him focus on destroying another man for 15 minutes.
“That’s all he has to do, is beat up one man, it doesn’t matter what financial implication is tied to that, what his ranking in the division, who his next opponent is, what sponsor is going to jump on or jump off, none of that stuff matters. Because with that 15 minute performance, everything falls into place, so that was one of the themes with this camp."
For Alves, he’s taken all the necessary steps in order to ensure victory on Saturday night and he plans on delivering a message with dominant performance over Abedi.
“I’m very excited, I think this is the first time I’m going to be fighting on Spike TV card and I’m excited to show off this new body, show off this new Thiago Alves,” he said. “Every day I wake up I’m excited again and I’m like ‘Yeah man, let’s train, let’s get better, let’s see how much better I can get today, how much more I can push myself today.’ I’m very excited and I can’t wait to step in there, he’s a newcomer, and I know exactly what’s going through his head. I remember when I got the opportunity to fight in the UFC, this is it man you got to take everything you got, so I know it won’t be an easy fight especially he’s undefeated, I know I got a little bit of an edge on him because I’ve been in there so many times. The first time in the UFC is never easy and I’m prepared, I’m prepared for everything, wherever the fight takes place I’m going to beat him up.
“That’s my goal right now and every fight I’m going to send a message to the division, I’m going to destroy and demolish people. The old ‘Pitbull’ is back and we’re going to send a message on November 5 for the whole world to see.”
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