Approximately 24 hours before UFC flyweight champ Deiveson Figueiredo defended his belt in a vicious fight-of-the-year candidate Saturday night, he was so sick, his manager said he didn't think he would be able to fight at all.
Figueiredo had stomach issues that sent him to the hospital on two different occasions Friday, the day before he and Brandon Moreno fought to a majority draw in the main event of UFC 256 in Las Vegas. The draw allowed Figueiredo to keep his title.
"It was 30 hours of nightmare," said Figueiredo's manager, Wallid Ismail, during an interview with ESPN's Ariel Helwani on Monday.
It started after Figueiredo, who has had problems making the 125-pound limit, went to the scale for official weigh-ins at noon ET on Friday. He made weight, then rehydrated with liquids and some soup.
"When he ate the soup, everything fell apart," Ismail said. "He threw up a little bit and it started the nightmare.
"We get out from there, we go direct to the hospital."
Ismail said Figueiredo was in the hospital from about 2:30 p.m.-6 p.m. ET Friday. Figueiredo went back to his hotel room and slept until 10 p.m. ET. That's when he woke up with his stomach bloated.
"His belly's that size," Ismail said, with his hands extended. "Everybody was like, 'He's not going to fight.' I called the UFC and said, 'Hey man, the guy is really bad right now.'
"We get to the hospital at 2:30 a.m. [local time], unbelievable. He said he could feel a lot of pain. I said, 'The fight is gone.'"
Figueiredo was still in pain later in the morning but eventually started to feel better. After debating whether to fight that night, Ismail said he and Figueiredo discussed what the UFC had given him -- the opportunity to become a champion and take care of his family in Brazil. He wanted to save the pay-per-view, Ismail said.
"He looked to me, 'Yes, I'm going to do it,'" Ismail said. "Now he's going to fight. The mindset of everybody is war, we're going to war."
Ismail said that with Figueiredo weakened, a quick finish would be needed for his fighter. Figueiredo said he was thinking along the same line.
"My feeling in the locker room, was like an animal, furious, like a tiger," Figueiredo said. "My mindset was to knock out the guy. ... But unfortunately, [I] cannot do it."
Figueiredo was in attack mode in the early rounds, but Moreno hung in. Then in the third and fourth rounds, the challenger was mostly on the offensive, with Figueiredo visibly tiring. Then came Round 5, where the Brazilian showed his championship mettle.
"That was his best round," Ismail said. "I said this guy is not from this planet."
The fight capped a banner year for Figueiredo, who believes he has definitely earned fighter-of-the-year status. He fought four times, reaching star status with two wins over top contender Joseph Benavidez, including capturing the vacant flyweight belt with a first-round finish in July. So impressive was Figueiredo, the UFC put him atop the card against Alex Perez at UFC 255, the first time in five years that a flyweight fight headlined a pay-per-view.
Then three weeks later, following his first-round win over Perez, Figueiredo made history by recording the shortest turnaround time for a UFC champion between title defenses. Figueiredo would have gone 4-0 this year if not for a point deduction after he kicked Moreno below the belt in Round 3 on Saturday.
Figueiredo, who called the deduction "unfair," won on one judge's card, but the other two scored the fight a draw.
While Figueiredo said he still needs to get his stomach healthy, he said he wants a June rematch with Moreno.
"If I'm not sick, I knock out him or submit him in the first round, that's a promise," Figueiredo said. "I'm much more stronger, I'm much more faster."