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Nikolas Motta of Brazil reacts after defeating Cameron VanCamp in a lightweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on September 17, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
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Nikolas Motta: Refocused And Realigned

Brazilian Lightweight Nikola Motta Aims To Start His 2024 Campaign Off With A Big Win

Nikolas Motta could have addressed his November no contest with Trey Ogden in a million ways, most of them along the lines of, “Hey, I was just coming on when the ref stopped the fight.”

Frankly, that’s what most would do. It was a bad night, he was on his way to losing a decision, and instead, a premature stoppage by referee Mike Beltran kept Motta from a second consecutive defeat. So why not say, thank you, MMA Gods, and move on?

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That’s not in Motta’s DNA, and while he says all the right things about moving on and being over the Ogden fight as he prepares for Saturday’s return against Tom Nolan, you can hear it in his voice that his performance that night still bothers him.

Nikolas Motta of Brazil punches Trey Ogden in a lightweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on November 18, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Nikolas Motta of Brazil punches Trey Ogden in a lightweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on November 18, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

“I was suspended for three months after the Manuel (Torres) fight and, at some point, I didn't know when I was going to fight. I ended up getting too heavy and, by the end of camp, I had been on a calorie deficit for too long. So by the end of camp, I started feeling my arms were fatigued, and I knew it wouldn't be an easy fight because of the way that Trey fights. I don't want to be giving excuses, but some things that happened.”

A respected coach as well as a fighter, Ogden is effective in shutting down an opponent’s game plan as he implements his own, and even though Motta has been in fights like that and emerged victorious thanks to a style he learned from former Nova Uniao teammate and UFC Hall of Famer Jose Aldo, on this night, it just wasn’t there.

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“He had a very good game plan and his wrestling was really good,” said Motta. “I won fights like that before with guys trying to grapple me and, at some point, they would get tired, but Trey was so ready; he kept the same strength and the same pressure, and that was really impressive.”

Add in that the Brazilian was on the last fight of his UFC contract, and he was in his head and tentative, allowing Ogden to jump out to a big lead before the end finally came at 3:11 of the third round.

Nikolas Motta Secures First Round TKO With Vicious Left Hook | UFC Fight Night: Sandhagen vs Song
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Nikolas Motta Secures First Round TKO With Vicious Left Hook | UFC Fight Night: Sandhagen vs Song
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Well, the positive is, it’s over. It’s not exactly a “New year new me” situation, but for the record, Motta was in the gym on the morning of January 1st and doing interviews by the afternoon.

“It’s just Monday,” he laughed. “I slept like a normal day. And I did my training early in the morning.”

And no New Year’s resolutions. Those were made on November 19.

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“I already had those goals a long time ago after my last fight,” he said. “I made changes and I've been working on those changes every day.”

Chief among those changes is a return to the philosophy that got him to the UFC in the first place, where what matters is the fight, not the result of the fight.

“(Against Ogden) I was trying to find the right moment and I didn't perform good because I was too afraid of losing and getting cut from the UFC,” he said. “And that was a good lesson that I even saw Lyoto Machida talking about when he lost his UFC title. The reason why was because he got too attached (to the result). And we cannot be thinking so much about that. Don't focus so much on the result and just focus on the action and stay in the moment.”

Nikolas Motta punches Joe Lowry in their lightweight fight during Dana White's Contender Series season four, week nine at UFC APEX on November 10, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/DWCS LLC/Zuffa LLC)
Nikolas Motta punches Joe Lowry in their lightweight fight during Dana White's Contender Series season four, week nine at UFC APEX on November 10, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/DWCS LLC/Zuffa LLC)

His gym mate, UFC middleweight champion Sean Strickland, also had some helpful hints for Motta.

“At the gym, I was thinking too much sometimes about strategy, and Strickland gave me good advice about having fun. He said the main thing is to don't be so attached. And I think that was good advice. He said that when he learned that, his career got way better and his fights got way better.”

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It’s hard to argue with the man at the top of the 185-pound division, and now, a week before Strickland defends his crown for the first time against Dricus Du Plessis in the main event of UFC 297, it’s up to Motta to get things off to a good start for the Xtreme Couture gym when he faces Australia’s Nolan at the APEX this weekend. It’s a big fight for both, with Motta trying to get back in the win column as the unbeaten Nolan makes his UFC debut. But with six fights, is the “Big Train” ready for the vastly more experienced Motta? That’s a question the Brazilian has, as well.

“I think about that, and I think that makes a lot of difference,” said Motta, a 19-fight pro who has appeared on The Ultimate Fighter Brazil and Dana White’s Contender Series. “But, at the same time, I cannot underestimate him because his fight on Dana White’s Contender Series was very impressive, a real fast knockout. And the guy that he did knock out was good, too. So I cannot underestimate him.”

And he won’t. But he also believes that when it’s time to fight, he’s going to show up in a different way than he did against Ogden. And if you’re the superstitious sort, it may be a good sign that Motta is fighting on the same card as the man who beat him when he was the hotshot making his UFC debut – Jim Miller.  

“I'm way more my mature now, and I'm going to see Jim Miller there,” said Motta. “It's going to be funny because when I fought him it was my debut and now I'm fighting a debut guy. So I hope I learned something from Jim Miller and now it's time to use it against the debut guy.”

UFC Fight Night: Ankalaev vs Walker 2 took placelive from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas on January 13, 2024. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!