Fluminense vs. Boca Juniors: Kaue Fernandes talks making UFC debut during Copa Libertadores final

Kaue Fernandes may be a little distracted when his UFC debut goes down Saturday in Brazil.

Fernandes is a hardcore supporter of Fluminense, the Brazilian soccer club that will playing in the final minutes of the Copa Libertadores championship against Boca Juniors in Rio de Janeiro at the exact moment he makes his walkout for UFC Sao Paulo against Marc Diakiese.

Fernandes, who was at Maracana stadium when Fluminense lost the Libertadores final to LDU in 2008, admitted he had to “work my mind” around the fact he won’t even watch the soccer match to avoid the “euphoria” for the championship victory or “sadness” of defeat.

“It’s really going to be kind of weird,” Fernandes said on MMA Fighting’s Trocação Franca podcast. “I never imagined this scenario happening, but apparently God wanted it to be like this. I probably won’t watch the game and I’ll be fighting while the game is ending. Fluminense will be the champion already, or will be at least going to penalty shootouts. I’ll try to stay away from the result and focus really hard on the fight, because I’m a hardcore Fluminense fan, as anyone can tell, and we feel it.”

Fernandes expects the soccer match to have a “horrible” first half, followed by a thrilling ending in which Fluminense will be “lethal” to secure the victory.

As for his UFC bout with Diakiese, Fernandes vows to “deliver an excellent performance,” even though it’s “a very hard fight against a very difficult opponent.”

“I did not go for the quick finish in my last two fights and I won by knockout,” Fernandes said. “I don’t think I’ll go for the quick knockout, I’ll fight my way and try to read the moment and not expose myself too much. I’ll let things go and he’ll feel it the moment I land. He might feel it the first minute or in the last minute of the third round, but I don’t rule out a fast knockout. Maybe I’ll showcase my jiu-jitsu too. Who knows? People still have no idea about my jiu-jitsu. Anything can happen in this fight, to be honest, especially because he’s such a crazy guy.”

The Brazilian talent is 8-1 in his professional MMA career and was hailed as a top prospect by Nova Uniao leader Andre Pederneiras years before making his pro debut. It ultimately took longer than expected for Fernandes to join a major MMA promotion, considering he was on MMA Fighting’s prospects to watch list in 2019, but he feels ready for the task.

“Things started too fast and I won the Shooto [Brazil] belt right away,” he said. “‘Dede’ was trying to book me against ex-UFC fighter Lucas Martins when I only had three fights, saying I could go toe to toe with anyone, but sometimes we’re too young, we’re immature. I had a thousand injuries — shoulder, hip, hand, jaw — and that slowed me down too. The pandemic came and I wasn’t signed to an international promotion, and the UFC was the only one putting on events at the time so everything stopped. I had no [outlet for] anything.”

Sidelined for almost two years, Fernandes finally returned in July 2021 and suffered his first MMA defeat in a decision to Luann Sardinha at LFA 111. First-round knockouts over his next two opponents under the LFA banner then led to him signing with the UFC in 2023.

“I came back after the pandemic and had my first loss,” Fernandes said. “That loss definitely helped me because sometimes we’re winning and we think it’s all going well. You have to know how to fix your mistakes even after a win. I wasn’t sure I was going to win my next fight, but that was the first time I felt I had done everything right.”

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