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Luana Pinheiro of Brazil poses for a portrait after her victory during the UFC 287 event at Kaseya Center on April 08, 2023 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC)
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Luana Pinheiro Hopes To Honor Father In Her Fight

After Losing Her Father In The Summer, Luana Pinheiro Steps Up To Her Toughest Challenge Yet At UFC Fight Night: Allen vs Craig

Luana Pinheiro returned home to João Pessoa when her father, Ayrton, was transferred to the intensive care unit. There, she saw people fighting for their lives every day, including her father, and Pinheiro felt like it bolstered her own strength. During a visit, Ayrton realized she had been up north for a few weeks, and he was adamant she return to training in Rio de Janeiro. Unfortunately, Ayrton passed away in late-August, leaving Pinheiro wondering if she could return to competition so soon.

Ultimately, Pinheiro decided the best way to do her father proud was to fight.

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“He is the reason I got into the fighting,” Pinheiro told UFC.com. “I just I feel that I could honor (him). Why not come in here and fight for my life or fight for what I love and build on his legacy and everything that he taught me? Why not continue doing what I do and what I love the most?”

Although the undercurrent of grief is understandably present during fight week, Pinheiro is eager for another Top 15 matchup against fellow Brazilian Amanda Ribas at UFC Fight Night: Allen vs Craig. Pinheiro is coming off a career-best win via split decision against divisional mainstay Michelle Waterson-Gomez.

Luana Pinheiro of Brazil reacts after her victory over Michelle Waterson-Gomez in a strawweight fight during the UFC 287 event at Kaseya Center on April 08, 2023 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Luana Pinheiro of Brazil reacts after her victory over Michelle Waterson-Gomez in a strawweight fight during the UFC 287 event at Kaseya Center on April 08, 2023 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Pinheiro believes that more than anyone else, she proved to herself that she belonged with the best in the world. That’s not to say he was satisfied with the performance, though. Happy with the win, sure, especially considering a hand injury she suffered early in the fight, but she knew she had lots to work on once she got back into the gym.

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“You can't settle for what happened before,” she said. “I used the fight to improve on things. There were things in that fight that I wanted to do that I wasn't able to do, so you continue to improve yourself in order to do that. That's how I take every fight - as an opportunity to improve myself and not just for the fight. I took that victory as an opportunity to improve myself, and especially in every single area, to be better for the next fight.”

Luana Pinheiro of Brazil kicks Michelle Waterson-Gomez in a strawweight fight during the UFC 287 event at Kaseya Center on April 08, 2023 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Luana Pinheiro of Brazil kicks Michelle Waterson-Gomez in a strawweight fight during the UFC 287 event at Kaseya Center on April 08, 2023 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Ribas has been in and around the strawweight and flyweight rankings for the last handful of years and endeared herself to fans quickly between her action-forward style and infectious personality. The fellow 30-year-old has struggled for consistency, however, splitting her last six fights.

After Pinheiro didn’t fight for all of 2022, she is looking at a quiet breakout year if she gets past Waterson-Gomez and Ribas In back-to-back outings. While fighting a fellow countrywoman isn’t ideal, Pinheiro isn’t looking at Ribas as anything else other than her next opponent and the next rung on the ultra-competitive ladder.

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“I think we will be able to represent Brazil in a very, very good way,” Pinheiro said. “I think a lot of people are going to see that. We have the utmost respect for each other. You can’t avoid it. We're going to put on a show on Saturday.”

When she makes the walk in the UFC APEX on November 18, Pinheiro believes she will feel the emotions of the moment but also remain focused on the task at hand. Her hope is to show everyone the work she put in since her last appearance, to show a high work rate and prove she is one of the best in the world. The weight on her shoulders is a little heavier, sure, but it is one she hopes to carry with pride and honor, one that continues to make her father proud each time she competes.

Don't miss a moment of UFC Fight Night: Allen vs Craig, live from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada. Prelims start at 2pm ET/11am PT, while the main card kicks off at 5pm ET/2pm PT.