FORTALEZA, Brazil – Former Strikeforce champ Rafael Cavalcante is ready to fulfill a dream on Saturday night when he makes his UFC debut.
And while opponent Thiago Silva (14-3 MMA, 5-3 UFC) seems to be treating the bout as a grudge match, Cavalcante (11-3 MMA, 0-0 UFC) said he can't be bothered to really care.
"Feijao" and Silva meet on the FUEL TV-broadcast main card of Saturday's UFC on FUEL TV 10 event, which takes place at Paulo Sarasate Arena in Fortaleza, Brazil. Ahead of the fight, Silva said Cavalcante has been acting like "a Hollywood celebrity" and suggested he couldn't wait to "slap 'Feijao' around."
Cavalcante said he has no idea Silva is talking about.
"I have nothing to say about it," Cavalcante said. "All I can say is we're not friends. He's just a fellow countryman. I just know him."
Instead of a bitter rivalry, Cavalcante is looking forward to what he thinks should be a glorious UFC debut. Fighting on the same card as longtime training partner Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Cavalcante admitted he's a little more excited than normal to step into the cage.
"I'm really very anxious," Cavalcante said. "It's a dream come true. The UFC is the biggest stage that you can reach in this career, so I'm really very happy. My family is here, and I'm really very honored to be able to fight in the same place as 'Minotauro.'
"It's my time. That's what I've been working for. I started practicing at the age of 10. I've been fighting professionally for about 10 years now, and this is the best moment for me."
Of course, the durable Silva isn't expected to play along with Cavalcante's plan. Technically winless since 2009 after two different UFC wins were overturned for failed drug tests, Silva is anxious to prove he still belongs at the top of the promotion's light heavyweight division.
Cavalcante said he's done his homework and knows what to expect from his foe.
"I think Thiago is a tough athlete, but I also believe in preparation," Cavalcante said. "I have studied him well. I've studied everything he's going to do, and if he's intelligent, he's studied me. But I've done that, and I'm ready to go and make things happen. It's going to be war."
Cavalcante is 4-1 in his past five official appearances, and he also had a win vacated during that run due to a failed post-fight drug test. Still, he's a former Strikeforce 205-pound champ and sits just outside the top 15 of the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie.com MMA light heavyweight rankings as an honorable mention.
A few key wins could elevate Cavalcante's status as a contender in the UFC's light heavyweight class. But the 32-year-old Brazilian said he's not worried about his positioning in the UFC right now. First things must come first, and that means an octagon win.
"I don't think about the title," Cavalcante said. "Right now, I just want to be there on Saturday and put on an awesome fight and do my job – do what I train for. That's it."
And as far as Cavalcante's concerned, Silva can keep talking, keep complaining, keep claiming there's tension where none should exist. For "Feijao," Saturday night isn't about an opponent, it's about a dream.
"This is special," Cavalcante said. "This is the best show in the world. Everyone wants to be here, to go in and do your job and have all the camera lenses pointed at you. My strategy is to focus on the fight. That's all I'm thinking about.
"This is my moment, my time, and I'm very happy about it."