As Serena Williams once said, a champion is defined not by their wins but by how they recover when they fall. Australian Featherweight MMA contender and TFC trainer Diego Pereira has been through his fair share of ups and downs, and that’s exactly what makes El Pantera Negra so formidable inside the cage and knowledgeable as a trainer.
Originally from Guararapes in São Paulo, Brazil; Diego has resided in Brisbane, Australia since he was 16. He practised Kung Fu, Capoeira, and Judo from a young age. At 19, he found his passion for martial arts when he began training in MMA, and today, he’s a BJJ brown belt and a professional MMA fighter.
Exploring the world of mixed martial arts
Diego came to Australia by way of a work opportunity. His uncle was the first to arrive, filling a skills gap at the meatworks industry. Then came his brother, and then Diego. It was there that he met a friend who talked about the then-champion Anderson Silva, which piqued Diego’s interest in MMA. He did some research and discovered BJJ and Muay Thai. A few days later, he’d joined his first class.
For the next few years, Diego would train in Queensland as he gradually built up his skills. Later, he would go back to Brazil to train at Nova União, one of the top professional MMA gyms in the world, and home to legendary fighter José Aldo.
As much as he enjoyed the training, though, he found it difficult to re-acclimate to life in Brazil. He returned to Australia, became a citizen, and looked into gyms where he could perfect his craft.
He eventually landed at Southside MMA. From there he was able to grow as a mixed martial artist under the tutelage of Vicente ‘VC’ Cavalcante in BJJ, and Paul Stolyar and Damage Maea equipping him with the tools to round out his MMA game. These coaches have done more than just guide him as an athlete though, Diego has also grown as a person outside of the sport with his Southside MMA family always in his corner.
Diego shone in the world of competitive martial arts
With Diego’s hard work and his impressive support system, Diego has competed in numerous BJJ tournaments, winning state and regional titles from white through brown belt. He is arguably at the top of his division competing against the best in Australia & New Zealand. He has amassed a professional MMA record of 9 wins and 6 losses, with four of the wins being knockouts and three being submissions.
Today, El Pantera Negra ranks 4th among 54 active Featherweights in Australia and New Zealand and is vying for an international title. He also holds the fastest knockout record in the history of Eternal MMA, ending a match in 9 seconds!
Preparing in the months leading up to the fight
Of course, like every significant achievement, none of his wins came easy. He worked hard for them, always going the extra mile in training, for months at a time. Diego Pereira is driven by a burning desire to grow—as a martial artist, athlete, and human being. With his heart set on becoming a UFC world champion, Diego has a single-minded focus on grinding to get there.
Getting ready to get up in the cage is no small feat for anyone. For Diego, though, it requires more than day by day of training. Preparing for a fight also involves:
- Planning the training program and strategizing against the opponent,
- Meditating and visualizing potential outcomes, so that he can anticipate how the opponent may react, and
- Applying focused and disciplined effort every day towards improving.
Diego’s martial arts journey has taken him all around the world. He has spent time at Jackson-Wink MMA in New Mexico and Nova União in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Southside MMA is where he calls home though. Training under Paul Stolyar, Vicente Cavalcanti and ‘Uncle Des’ Maea, Diego acknowledges the team as his family. Diego also manages to get some sessions in with Ben Johnston at TFC when he’s not on the mats as a trainer.
Getting up in the cage
Diego Pereira deals with all doubts and hesitations outside the cage. Once he’s in it, he has laser-sharp focus on what matters—to give his best performance. Every match is a rush of adrenaline where all he does is focus on his breath and the task at hand. With enough preparation, things end in his favour.
And when it’s done, the palpable feeling of victory is blissful relief against the pressure. It’s a reassurance that hard work pays off and Diego’s dreams are within his reach. In a perfect world, every match ends on a high note. But sometimes, you’ve got to take a step back before you go a step forward.
Losing is heartbreaking—both to Diego and his supporters. A few major hits broke his jaw and leg early in the fight in 2020. It was a hard pill to swallow, but losses are still part of the game. Muhammad Ali once said wise words: success is not achieved by winning all the time. Real success comes when we rise after the fall. So while this particular loss had been devastating when it happened, it was necessary for Diego to learn and evolve as a fighter.
Diego Pereira is just a simple man who overcame the odds of growing up in the ghetto streets in Brazil, trying to leave the world better than he found it. Come visit the TFC to get inspired by this man in action.
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