Booked to face Geoff Neal in the co-main event of UFC Vegas 59 this Saturday, “The Silent Assassin” treats the decision defeat that snapped his impressive four-fight finishing streak as a “small step back” before heading towards the 170-pound championship, starting with a “war” at the UFC APEX.
“It’s hard to predict, but the path is definitely more promising now than in other moments for me,” Luque said on this week’s episode of MMA Fighting podcast Trocação Franca. “Many things are now set in the division. I even have clearer paths now, right? We have [Khamzat] Chimaev up there as the possible next in line, and he’s going to fight Nate [Diaz]. Winning that fight, I think the UFC will make him fight the winner of Kamaru [Usman] and Leon [Edwards], and I need to win.
“Winning this fight and depending on the next one, it might push me to the title, but it depends on the opponent. The focus now is on beating Geoff Neal and getting back to the winning column, a position where I can choose a name at the top. Depending on that name and depending on how the division moves, I think I might get that title shot.”
Kamaru Usman will defend his title in a rematch with Leon Edwards at UFC 278 on Aug. 20, while Khamzat Chimaev battles Nate Diaz in the main event of UFC 279 three weeks later. Muhammad, who hasn’t lost since dropping a decision to Neal in 2019, looks to extend his unbeaten streak to eight when he faces Sean Brady at UFC 280 in October.
Luque would rather face someone ranked in the top 10 of the division now, but opted to take on Neal instead just to stay active.
“If I’m looking only at the top 5 I would have to wait for them to decided they wanna fight me and when they wanna fight me,” Luque said. “It’s harder at the top, especially now that I’m coming off a loss. They don’t want that. It’s never easy to find opponents that immediately say ‘yes’ when they’re offered a fight with me.”
Eager to return to the winning column, the Brazilian talent explained how the upsetting defeat to Muhammad in April made him change a few things in training in order to evolve as a mixed martial artist.
“People will want to do that do me, take me down and just hold me there to score a few points round after round,” Luque said. “To me, it makes [that loss] even worse. I can get submitted — I was submitted in the past, before the UFC, and it sucks, but it’s more definitive. I was never knocked out and I hope I never am, but you can’t say anything after that, he went there and beat you.
“In this fight, it was just details. Credit to him, he went there and imposed his strategy really well and confused me, but I was prepared to actually fight. It was surprising during the fight and frustrating in the end. If I knew the fight was going to be like that I would have rushed things early, went for all or nothing.
“It was a learning experience for me. There are many guys at the top that could try that against me, like Kamaru and Colby [Covington], guys that have a wrestling game to try that, and maybe I just need to go there and fight my fight, an aggressive fight, think about the knockout or the submission instead of thinking too much about points.”