With his victory over Sergio Moraes at this past Saturday's UFC 147 event in Belo Horizonte, Brazil,
Vitor Belfortprotege Cezar "Mutante" Ferreira (5-2 MMA, 1-0 UFC) earned his way into the UFC as the first-ever middleweight winner of "The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil."
Now he's setting his sights much higher.
"I'm going to grow step by step and be amongst the biggest names of this event," Ferreira said through an interpreter. "That is my dream. That's what I'm going to do, and I'm going to do it well."
When the "TUF: Brazil" cast was unveiled, Ferreira was immediately considered among the show's strongest fighters. He made good on those expectations with submission wins over Gustavo Sampaio and Leonarda Mafra and a "Knockout of the Season" victory over Thiago Perpetuo to earn his way into the finals against Sergio Moraes, who replaced an injured Daniel Sarafian.
In a classic striker vs. grappler affair, Ferreira refused to engage his opponent on the ground, choosing instead to avoid his opponent's strengths and forcing Moraes to engage him on the feet.
While it paid off with a few highlight-reel moments, Moraes did prove a capable striker with a few well-timed power shots.
"He really surprised me," Ferreira admitted. "He's improved his striking. He's ready to become one of the big names of the UFC. I hope God blesses his career, and I wish he also does very well in the UFC. In my opinion, he gave a great fight, and I just have to congratulate him."
While Ferreira earned a clean sweep on all three judges' cards, the fight was much closer and more entertaining than that score might suggest. UFC president Dana White even tweeted during the contest that it was the "Fight of the Night," though he later rescinded that thought for the official award in favor of
Rich Franklinand Wanderlei Silva's headlining clash.
While Ferreira didn't engage Moraes on the floor during the 15-minute contests, he insists that's not necessarily something to expect of him moving forward.
"I wouldn't have been at any disadvantage on the ground," Ferreira said. "I'm also a jiu-jitsu black belt. As my trainer told me, the only chance Sergio had was with jiu-jitsu, be it on top or underneath. So let's take him away from where he feels comfortable. I obeyed my camp.
"A fighter goes into a corner, and he has to use his corner as his navigation, and that is what I did. My corner told me to stand, so I did that. They wanted me to go up to him, so I did. When they wanted me to step back, I stepped back."
Ferreira, who's now expected to meet Sarafian later this year, has long trained under Belfort, who was also his coach on "TUF: Brazil." So connected are the two, Ferreira actually used Belfort's walkout music on his way to the octagon. It's a bond Ferreira doesn't foresee changing anytime soon.
"We've always been training together, and it won't be different," Ferreira said. "We will continue to work together. It's been successful so far, and in my career, I will be together Vitor to learn with him as I've always done."
What Ferreira does expect to see change, however, is his position in the middleweight world rankings. With his ticket to the octagon punched, "Mutante" is now ready to make an impression on the world stage.
"The first step in my dream has been reached, and I now I just need to work out a lot," Ferreira said. "I have to grow a lot in the UFC."