Gustavo Falciroli normally competes at 135 lbs but the UFC would have gladly taken him as a lightweight on 'TUF Smashes' if a piece of paperwork hadn't prevented it. The Brazilian born fighter has been training and fighting in Australia his entire career but did not get his citizenship through in time to represent his adopted nation on the reality show.
The disappointment did not linger too long because since then not only has he finally become a fully fledged Australian citizen but Falciroli has also been booked to face DREAM Bantamweight champion Bibiano Fernandes at ONE FC: 'Pride of a Nation' in Manila.
As he prepares for what will be the biggest fight of his career Falciroli, who is the reigning CFC bantamweight champion, is just delighted to have finally received full Australian status,
"It means a lot, Australia is the country where my kids were born and the country that introduced me to world as a professional athlete. Fighting for Australia is my way to say thanks to every single Aussie citizen that has been helping and supporting me and my family since I got here."
Fernandes was at the centre of one of the most incredible tug of wars in MMA history when the UFC announced it had signed him and even booked him to fight at an event only for the Brazilian to eventually opt to continue to compete in Asia with ONE FC.
The big question was who would welcome the multi division DREAM champion to ONE FC and having already beaten Soo Chul Kim in Jakarta it was Falciroli who got the nod. The Australian will have a significant size and reach advantage but he is anxious to play down the significance of this,
"I don't know whether that will make a difference or not, we will have to wait and see once the fight starts. For sure Fernandes is a good fighter and he has fought at featherweight before so I don't think I will be the biggest fighter he has ever fought."
Although Falciroli has competed at lightweight in the past, once losing to UFC fighter Bernardo Magalhaes by majority decision, he has no problems making 135 lbs and plans to stay there for the forseeable future,
"When I first started fighting it was very difficult to find opponents in Australia at 135 or even 145 so I just had to take any fights I could. I feel comfortable at 135 lbs and I think it is the best weight for me and I want to stay here and to win titles and make my name at 135 lbs."
Both men have BJJ black belts although Fernandes, a world champion, is the more decorated of the two. Falciroli has never been finished in his MMA career and is confident that will not change on August 31st,
"In my BJJ career I was always very difficult to submit. I am confident in my ground game but, with all due respect to Fernandes, I am confident in all areas of my game."
The winner of this fight will be in pole position for a shot at the ONE FC bantamweight belt, with another Brazilian, Leandro Issa, also very much in the mix. Falciroli wants to add more titles to his CFC strap but says he is not looking past his fight with Fernandes,
"I work for ONE FC now so if they want to give me a shot at the title it is up to them but that is what I am working towards. I also hope to defend my CFC title sometime but it all depends on ONE FC, holding both belts is my dream."