MMA fighters come in many forms. Some like to stand and brawl, some are ground technicians, and some are really well-rounded. Some fighters come from cushy, wealthy families and some come from really tough childhoods. That being said, one quality possessed by the greatest fighters, regardless of their backgrounds, is that true “it.” Some call it heart, but that term gets thrown around a lot in MMA.
While the true heart of a champion is difficult to define, there are qualities to look for in a fighter that give some insight as to whether or not he or she has the “it” factor. In the case of Dhiego Lima, he has “it.”
Lima, who was born in Brazil and grew up in the Atlanta area, is a 22-year-old welterweight currently under contract with Maximum Fighting Championship. He trains at American Top Team Gwinnett, which is in Lawrenceville, Ga., about 30 miles northeast of Atlanta.
As most fans know, ATT is one of the largest networks of MMA gyms in the United States, housing many big-name fighters. ATT Gwinnett is one of the newer facilities in the network, sporting a new 11,500 square-foot gym, with 3,500 square feet of mat space and a full cage.
Lima and his brother, Bellator and MFC vet Douglas Lima, are two of the coaches at ATT Gwinnett, and Dhiego is grateful to have this new training facility. When asked what he learned in his last fight against Nathan Coy, Dhiego briefly mentioned that he needed to work on his wrestling, but was adamant about the true lesson he took from that bout.
“I learned a lot from that fight,” Dhiego told The MMA Corner in an exclusive interview. “I know Nathan trains full-time. I was only training one time a day. I had a full-time job. Thank god that everything worked out and we opened up the gym. I’m full-time training now, and it really helps me.”
Even though Dhiego has an impressive pro record with six wins—all finishes—and only one decision loss, there’s always room for improvement. With two children and a full-time job, one could easily say Dhiego was not able to train to his full potential.
Dhiego’s last fight was at MFC 32 last January, so it has been over six months since he was last on stage.
“I didn’t want to take so much time off,” Lima said. “I had some injuries to take care of. I was actually out of the game and not training for two months. Now, I’m 100 percent, training full-time for this fight. It’s going to be nothing but good things coming, man. I can’t wait.”
Lima has some tremendous training partners that he’s currently working with. In addition to his brother, he also trains with current and former UFC fighters such as Brian Stann, Raphael Assuncao, Clay Harvison and Roan Carneiro, as well as Raphael’s brother, Freddy, also a professional fighter. Dhiego is young, he’s got drive, and he has some great influences surrounding him and helping him train for his next battle.
Dhiego’s next fight is at MFC 34 this Friday, Aug. 10, in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He will be facing Nick Hinchliffe, a 19-8 veteran fighter competing professionally for the last six years.
The majority of Hinchliffe’s fights have taken place in the King of the Cage Canada promotion during his first three years as a pro. The more recent portion of his resume features stints in many of Canada’s high-profile promotions. Hinchliffe has one of the most well-rounded records in professional MMA. He has literally won and lost in every possible fashion. Although, recently, four of his five fights have ended in decisions, so he’s no stranger to going the distance. However, Lima has a positive outlook going into this match-up.
“He’s an experienced guy. He’s good at everything, but he’s not great at anything.” Lima said. “It’s going to be a tough fight. He’s an experienced guy, and he’s going to hang in there, you know?”
When asked what aspect of his game he was working to improve, Lima was very clear.
“Wrestling, wrestling, wrestling,” Lima stated emphatically. “These wrestlers, they’re on a level that’s really hard to beat. Just trying to really work at wrestling. That way, we can compete with those guys, and as soon as we do that, nothing’s going to stop us. Really, for this fight, I pretty much worked everything the same. When I’m not in training camp, I mostly focus on my wrestling.”
So, Lima’s training plan seems pretty simple. Work full-time on all aspects of his game, including wrestling, and stay confident that, while Hinchliffe has the obvious edge in experience, Dhiego has the “it” factor.
“I don’t care what he’s going to do,” Lima confessed. “He just better get ready for what I’m going to bring. I’m the one going to be pushing the pace. I want to dictate where the fight goes. I don’t care what he does. It’s just me. It’s my time now.”
Nothing screams “it” like Dhiego’s confidence to walk into the cage with a much more experienced fighter and know that he’s going to control the fight. Lima knows it is his time, and he will stop at nothing to get through this opponent and on to his next fight.
Lima has one more fight after MFC 34 on his Maximum Fighting Championship contract, and he’s already making plans for it.
“Since I was out for so long, I couldn’t fight on the last card, but I definitely want to fight on the Oct. 26 card,” Lima explained. “I’m definitely looking forward to being on that fight card as well.”
“I just can’t wait to show people what I can do. I’m refocused and I’m ready. You guys are going to see fireworks.”
It’s that kind of drive and determination this early in his career that’s going to push Lima onto the big stage. But, there’s also the day-to-day Dhiego—the father.
“Outside of MMA, I’m just a nice guy, man,” Lima admitted. “I’m always going out with my kids. I’m a really friendly guy. It’s just the way I am. I have a couple students, and I’m teaching the kids’ classes. I just want to help out, too. Just giving it back to the community. I’m really looking forward to it. The gym’s been growing real fast. And, it’s just been a blessing, man. I’m real excited.”
Dhiego Lima has a bright future ahead of him. He’s got two sides, the fighter and the father. Lima is confident that he can win this fight and the next, regardless of who his opponents are. Then, he will hopefully get the next big shot in his career. Maybe it will be a pay-per-view event on the big stage. Whatever the future holds for Lima, it will be nothing but success, because he has “it.”
Top Photo: Dhiego Lima (Jacob Bos/Sherdog)