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Bonus-winning Leandro Issa 'excited' to return to Brazil for UFC Fight Night 58

Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images

Where would Leandro Issa be if he had never left Brazil? Certainly not coming off a "Performance of the Night" win that earned him $100,000 in bonuses and looking to extend his 12-4 record at UFC Fight Night 58 in his home state of Sao Paulo.

The Brazilian is based in Singapore where he is a member of the team at Evolve MMA and says moving to Asia has helped him to go from being a decorated Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) black belt to becoming a fully-fledged mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter.

"Before I came to Singapore I was just like a BJJ guy trying to do MMA but I train a lot with the Muay Thai champions at Evolve MMA and now I am a different fighter. If I had stayed in Brazil I do not think my career would be the same at all, maybe I would not even be fighting anymore."

Issa has spent much of his career competing in Asia and fought for the ONE FC 135-pound title before signing with the UFC. He is coming off that lucrative submission win over former Legend FC champion and Ruff title contender Jumabieke Tuerxun and next up is a match with Shooto veteran Yuta Sasaki.

It will be Issa's ninth fight against an Asian fighter, but he doesn't see any significance in this particular statistic.

"All fighters are different and some fighters in Asia are good at Jiu Jitsu and others have very strong striking but I will fight anyone the UFC ask me to. I train hard all the time and I am always ready, it does not matter who the opponent is."

The first time Issa fought a Japanese fighter was in Sao Paulo back in 2007 in only his third fight as a professional and he was handed his first loss by Takafumi Otsuka in a result which still irks him to this very day.

"He hit me very hard in the groin but the referee did not stop the fight even though it was a foul and because of that he got the win. It was my first loss and it was a big disappointment but it was a long time ago and I am not thinking about that now."

Sasaki brings an 18-1-2 record into their fight, which is set for the Jose Correa Arena in Sao Paulo on December 20th. He's also coming off a "Performance of the Night" bonus and Issa believes he is facing one of the top bantamweights in the world.

"Sasaki has a good grappling game and he is a southpaw but I have many team mates who are BJJ world champions and Muay Thai world champions and they prepare me for everything, Evolve MMA is the best camp in the world and I am lucky to train there."

The submission win over Jumabieke was Issa's first in a while with the majority of his recent fights going the distance and the BJJ black belt believes it is a platform he can build on.

"It felt good to win by submission because I am Jiu Jitsu black belt and I have been doing Jiu Jitsu nearly all my life. I am happy that I have my first win in the UFC and I showed people that I am good enough to be a UFC fighter, I want to stay here for a long time."

Issa's reward for the win over Jumabieke is a  homecoming fight and he feels there would be no better way to celebrate than by becoming the first fighter to ever finish Sasaki.

"I'm really excited to be fighting in Sao Paulo again because my family and friends back home have always supported me throughout my career and it'll be an honor to fight in front of them. Sasaki has a good record but if I get a chance to finish him I will go for it."

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