Gabriel Miranda once hoped to sign with the UFC in his late 20s, while he was on a long winning streak. But now, he understands that a twisting road to the octagon can prove to be an advantage.
Miranda, 32, makes his first walk to the UFC cage on Saturday in Paris, battling French lightweight Benoit Saint Denis on enemy turf. Back in 2015, in the middle of an eight-fight stoppage streak with seven first-round finishes, Miranda thought he was primed to join the UFC. But instead, he ended up losing in Japan and Florida in a span of six months.
“I believe everything happens for a reason, and at the right time in life,” Miranda said on this week’s episode of MMA Fighting podcast Trocação Franca. “Sometimes an opportunity comes sooner, and you aren’t ready for it. I never complain in life because I have this mindset now. I was on an eight-fight winning streak and many people wrote stories [about me being UFC-bound] but then I lost at Pancrase and then lost again. That served as an opportunity to pump the breaks and say, ‘Hold on, that’s not how things work.’”
Miranda trained at Curitiba’s CM System for nearly a decade, racking up an 8-2 record. But eventually, he decided it was time for a complete change. Miranda was 14-5 in the sport and under contract with Brave CF when the pandemic struck, halting his career between 2019 and 2021.
“I was taking a lot of steps back, and things weren’t happening for me anymore,” he said. “I talked to my wife and said we had to do something, things weren’t flowing. That’s when a friend advised me that sometimes we have to get out of our comfort zone and try something new. That’s when I decided to chance my life altogether.”
Miranda moved to Florida and joined the MMA Masters gym not knowing what would happen and who I would find. Working with Daniel Valverde as his new head coach, he believes he’s at his best — and signing with the UFC — shows he made the right call.
“I’m going to Paris on September 3rd to get this victory,” Miranda continued. “It’s like a video game – it only gets harder every step of the way. But the previous challenge prepares you for this next one. You learn new tricks and get ready for new levels.”
Saint Denis is 9-1 as a professional with a 1-1 retrospect in the UFC. His sole defeat came against Elizeu Zaleski, a former teammate of Miranda at CM System, in an one-sided beatdown in Abu Dhabi. The French talent has also beaten another former training partner of Miranda in his pre-UFC run, though.
“We already fought on the same Brave card in Bahrain, and he ended up fighting two training partners of mine,” Miranda said. “He’s a great athlete, a well-rounded fighter who likes to grapple. I respect him because, like myself, he doesn’t like to talk trash. I know he’s a high-level athlete and that’s great for me because I won’t be fighting a nobody in the UFC. I’ll be making my debut against a high-level guy and it’s going to be a show.
“I’m going for the submission, as always, but I’ll use my hands and my striking. Nobody knows me yet, they’ll get to know me in the UFC, this huge platform, and I’ll show them my evolution on the feet. I got good hands and kicks and I’ll use that to open way for my jiu-jitsu, which is what I love doing.”