UFC debut loss taught Nikolas Motta ‘you cannot fight with your balls, you have to fight with your brain too’

A series of fight cancellations led to Nikolas Motta being booked against Jim Miller — a veteran of 38 octagon appearances at the time — for his UFC debut this past February, a fight Motta lost by knockout. Back in action versus Cameron VanCamp this Saturday at UFC Vegas 60, Motta feels like a different athlete after learning lessons the hard way.

“My head is way better than before,” Motta said on this week’s episode of MMA Fighting podcast Trocação Franca. “I’ve changed, adjusted and corrected a lot of things. I think that last fight was a great experience and I learned a lot from that. I’m ready to come back with everything now.”

Motta moved his camp from Nova União to Las Vegas to have Ray Sefo as his head coach now, and said the biggest lesson came from a chat with Bellator featherweight and training partner Mads Burnell.

“You cannot fight with your balls, you have to fight with your brain too,” he said with a laugh. “A friend of mine, Mads Burnell, was joking that the curse of the Brazilians is that we have too much balls. I’ll try to be smarter now and do my best to be at the right point, not too much and not too little, to win and not take things too personal or think of a million other things.”

Motta said he has “corrected a few things I did wrong” in his promotional debut and will use the experience gained in the Miller fight to show what he’s got in the UFC. If Miller sticks around in the sport for another few years, Motta would gladly take a rematch down the line too.

“I was tested [in the regional scene] and tested again at the Contender [Series] and proved I’m good enough to be in the UFC, and now it’s time to go for the victory,” said Motta, a former Cage Fury FC champion. “I had a ligament partially tear in my knee in the Jim Miller fight and that’s why my leg went flying when he kicked me, and now I’m 100 percent. Instead of crying about that fight, I saw how much I’ve grown. In 2015, when I was on TUF: Brazil, I didn’t know how to handle a loss, I didn’t want to accept it, all I thought was about the opportunity I lost.”

With Sefo and Jake Shields in his corner at the UFC APEX, Motta said “it doesn’t matter” how he gets it done, and vows that “people will be impressed with this version of me now.”

“Any means necessary,” he said. “I’ll do everything possible to win. I’ll adapt to his game and try to use my experience to win. I’m ready to fight anyone now. That’s my plan. I’ve been thinking about it, man. One step at a time, but I want to win this fight now and not take too long before the next one. I wanna fight again this year. And I think this fight is about guaranteeing my job, right, because I lose the first one and I’ve seen many people lose two and get fired, so I have my back against the wall.”