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UFC middleweight Cezar Ferreira is a fan of his own work.

And while that’s the type of statement that may come across as arrogant when it’s simply thrown out there, Ferreira has some context to offer as he heads into his 13th octagon appointment.

“Many people, doctors, see the injuries I had and say it’s a miracle that I’m still fighting at a high level to this day,” Ferreira told MMAjunkie. “That’s how bad my back injury was.”

At 33, Ferreira is by no means an MMA newbie. But that’s what he was back in 2012, when he made his octagon debut. He won then, beating Sergio Moraes to be crowned middleweight winner of the first season of “The Ultimate Fighter Brazil.” Sure, it’s a solid accomplishment, but it didn’t change the fact that Ferreira was still just six fights into his professional MMA career.

That meant Ferreira’s growing as a fighter had to take place in the octagon. That, along with a rough, injury-riddled period, made for a somewhat bumpy ride for the “TUF Brazil” alum – a ride that, at one point, featured three setbacks in four fights. But now, with four wins in his most recent five fights, Ferreira is satisfied with his trajectory.

“A fighter shows they’re a true fighter when they go through the struggles, when they go through the adversity and have the strength, wisdom and patience to reverse the process and overcome these obstacles,” Ferreira said. “I’m a fan of my own work because when I look back and I see everything that I went through, everything I’ve done to this day, I’m still fighting, almost breaking into the UFC rankings, and I see, ‘Wow, I did a lot.’”

When it comes to the rankings, Ferreira is right about the “almost” bit. Despite his positive results, he’s not a part of the promotion’s official top-15 listing yet. He’s hoping to change that this year, though, en route to the bigger goal: the belt, of course.

That starts on Saturday, when Ferreira (12-6 MMA, 8-4 UFC) meets Karl Roberson (6-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) in the closing bout of the preliminary card at Rio de Janeiro’s Jeunesse Arena. The middleweight bout airs on FX, prior to the pay-per-view main card.

“Mutante” comes into it off a split-decision win over Nate Marquardt at UFC Fight Night 120. That followed a unanimous-decision loss to Elias Theodorou – which Ferreira, who still disagrees with the judges, files under “moral victory.” Before that, he’d beaten Jack Hermansson, Anthony Smith and Oluwale Bamgbose.

Roberson, on the other hand, has only fought in the UFC once. His debut, also at UFC Fight Night 120, ended with submission win over Darren Stewart. Roberson stamped his ticket into the UFC last July, with a big knockout over Ryan Spann at Dana White’s Contender Series 3. While he only started his pro career in 2015, he’s unbeaten, with only one of those wins coming via decision.

Coming off an opponent with 25 UFC fights to someone who’s only had one is quite a departure. But “Mutante” is by no means overlooking the striking expert he has in front of him now. First off, as his record shows, he’s not one to handpick fights. And, the way he sees it, making it to the UFC alone is enough proof that someone can hang with the elite.

“(Roberson) fought great opponents in GLORY,” Ferreira said. “He has a good resume. He’s a knockout artist, he’s unbeaten. He’s a very tough guy.”

Ferreira has once more done his fight camp at the Institute of Human Perforamnce, where he does physical preparation, as well as injury management and prevention, and Florida’s MMA Masters, where “Mutante” has been for the mostly successful past two years.

As he heads to Rio, Belo Horizonte’s Ferreira believes it’s “wonderful” and a “privilege” to get to represent his home country in front of his home fans. The pressure, he says, will be channeled into incentive – which is not to say there isn’t any pressure at all.

“This will be my 13th fight in the UFC, I’ve had two co-main events and I’ve been in big events, so, to say there’s no pressure is a lie,” Ferreira said. “There always is, whether it’s your debut or your final fight. There will be pressure and anxiety to compete. That’s normal. Every intelligent human being who fights in a sport like this, you have to be ready, alert and to have the butterflies in the belly. The butterflies are good, they keep you smart.”

“Mutante” is clearly careful not to underestimate his competition. But, with the tape study done and the gameplan ready, he is, of course, hoping to get his hand raised once more. And after that?

“My peak is yet to come,” Ferreira said. “I believe this year I’ll break into the rankings and place myself in the front line of the division.”

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