Luana Pinheiro is ready to get her run in UFC rolling properly.
Perfect as a professional since her third career bout, the 10-1 Pinheiro had her momentum halted by an LCL injury in 2022, sidelining her for the year’s entirety. The Brazilian Strawweight prospect managed to avoid surgery as she patiently rehabbed for more than eight months.
Pinheiro won her way to the Octagon through Dana White’s Contender Series in late 2020, knocking out Stephanie Frausto in round one before a less-than-ideal victory in her UFC debut. Indeed, an illegal up-kick from Randa Markos spelled the end for Pinheiro inside UFC Apex, earning her a disqualification win before picking up a unanimous decision against Sam Hughes at the end of 2021.
Now, the 29-year-old is set to compete in front of her first capacity crowd outside the Apex at UFC 287 on April 8 in Miami, Florida.
“What motivated me to enter into MMA was actually seeing Ronda [Rousey] do her walkout and hearing the people cheer for her, hearing the crowd go wild,” Pinheiro told MMA Mania. “That’s what made me want to begin doing MMA. When I’m around and in an environment where people are cheering and people are screaming, that motivates me so much, so, I want to feed off that motivation and energy.
“Even more on this card, this is a packed card from top to bottom. I’m so excited to be a part of it. I never actually think about the number of fights I have in the UFC until now, that’s not something that goes through my mind. I’m more worried about doing my best job, putting on a show, and make the fans happy. That’s what I’m interested in.”
Currently ranked No. 14 at 115 pounds, Pinheiro has been an all-action fighter thus far in her career thanks to a solid judo base accompanied by increasingly dangerous striking skills. In her return, the Joao Pessoa native will get her biggest test yet when paired against former Invicta FC Atomweight champion and seasoned veteran, Michelle Waterson-Gomez.
Admitting to the difficulties of taking her recovery slow as was required last year, Pinheiro is more than content with not getting a “lay up” opponent to welcome her back.
“I love challenges,” Pinheiro said. “The bigger the challenge, the bigger the motivation, I always say. Michelle Waterson is, in fact, a great opponent. She has double the amount of fights that I have. Since I entered the UFC, I always wanted the big fights, I always wanted the big names. So, she’s just one step in the way of achieving what I’m meant to achieve here in the UFC.
“I believe it’s going to be a great fight, I’m gonna do my best. I’m sure she’s gonna do her best, too. I hope we put on a show for the fans,” Pinheiro concluded.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 287 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard on ESPN/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
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