UFC newcomer Felipe Bunes wants a quick road to the top of the flyweight division.
“Felipinho” makes his octagon debut Saturday at the UFC APEX in a matchup against former Fury FC titleholder Joshua Van at UFC Vegas 84, and he feels more than ready for bigger challenges after six months of training with UFC stars Deiveson Figueiredo and Zhang Weili — plus Henry Cejudo and coach Eric Albarracin — in Arizona.
“Deiveson is tough,” Bunes said on MMA Fighting’s Trocação Franca podcast. “He’s extremely strong and his punch is unreal for this division. I can speak from experience, I’ve felt that. [Laughs.] And training with Deiveson was great because I wasn’t even in the UFC at the time, I was still fighting in Russia, and training with a world champion was extremely important to know where I was, if I had good fighting IQ.”
Bunes captured the LFA flyweight title before joining the UFC in 2022, and feels he belongs in the octagon now. In fact, the Pitbull Brothers representative wants to dictate his own destiny in the UFC by having a few names in mind for his post-fight callout.
“Training with Deiveson was gratifying because now I don’t fear any top-five fighter in this division,” Bunes said. “I know I can go toe-to-toe with any one of them for five, six, 10 rounds if I have to.”
“Everybody asks me if I’d rather fight a top-ranked opponent now or only after I sign a new contract,” he added. “It doesn’t matter who’s on the other side. [Muhammad] Mokaev, Tim Elliott, Manel Kape, Kai Kara-France, it doesn’t matter. They don’t matter. I have the level to fight these guys. All I need is Mick [Maynard] and Dana [White] to send me the contract and say the date. Give me time to train and the contract. That’s it.”
Bunes must first get past Van, a fighter who has won decisions over Zhalgas Zhumagulov and Kevin Borjas since inking a UFC deal, but Bunes thinks his original opponent Denys Bondar was a more complicated matchup.
“Bondar is really tough,” Bunes said. “Not that Joshua isn’t, but Bondar has more than 10 fights and has great wrestling, something that dominates [the sport] today with Russians, Dagestanis, and Americans. Joshua doesn’t have good grappling — that’s a fact — and jiu-jitsu is my best weapon.
“I spent six months training with Deiveson Figueiredo and Zhang Weili in Arizona, they were both training for title fights, and I used my spare time to train wrestling. My wrestling is way better now. But like I always say, I always prefer to strike. My opponents usually feel my hands or I take them down, and I’m a black belt in jiu-jitsu. I have eight submissions, and six of those came after my opponents felt my hands and decided to grapple. I don’t think this fight is going the distance.”