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A refreshed return for Viviane Araujo at UFC on ESPN 36

After a year away from octagon, flyweight contender is refreshed and ready for return on Saturday.
viviane-araujo

It's safe to say that the best MMA fighters are ready for anything, even when "anything" includes the airline losing your bags. Just ask Viviane Araujo (10-3 MMA, 4-2 UFC), who suffered precisely that setback en route from her native Brazil to Las Vegas, where she fights Andrea Lee (13-5 MMA, 5-3 UFC) this Saturday at UFC on ESPN 36.

"I don't have anything here, no clothes, all the basic stuff," she explains with a sad smile, adding that her luggage got lost in transit from Brazil. "So ever since we got here, we've been very busy trying to figure this out. But it happens, and I came prepared for any adversity."

Araujo has spent a lot of time thinking about adversity. When she steps into the octagon as the featured prelim of the card, it will have been precisely one year since we last saw her compete in a close decision loss to the current No. 1 contender, Katlyn Chookagian.

"I shouldn't have left that fight in the hands of the judges," she recalls. "I should have used my aggressiveness better. In the second round, I had gotten a submission, but I didn't keep going because I wasn't sure. If I had kept going with that submission, I'm sure she would have tapped and the referee would have seen it."

"It's always hard when you don't get the win, especially the way it happened. It was a close fight, it could have gone both ways. So we rewatched it and worked on a lot of things. Being away for one year is really hard for fighters; we get very anxious. So I've been working with my sports psychologist to sharpen my mind in order to be prepared for any situation."

Of course, it was never intended to take this long.

"This week has been exactly one year since I last fought in the UFC. I was supposed to fight in February against Alexa Grasso, but unfortunately during my camp I suffered an elbow injury and I needed surgery."

So how did she soldier through the brutal double-whammy of a loss and losing a fight to her own injury?

"Just the same things that make me feel good: being with my dogs, spending time with my fiancee, as well, going to the park with them. I think that's what always makes me feel good."

Fiancee? She smiles slyly like we weren't going to notice that little tidbit.

"I got engaged three months ago. We're really happy planning our future together, so I'm happy with that, as well."

Maybe it wasn't the worst year after all.

"Today I feel 100 percent, mentally and physically. This is my best version so far."

There's no reason not to believe her. In the absence of a fight to prepare for, she was still working daily towards the moment when that fight contract would finally get signed.

"I'm coming very well-prepared. I've learned a lot during this time off. A lot of growth, both mentally and physically. I think I've evolved in a lot of aspects regarding my technique and physical abilities. My nutritionist has been doing a great job, so the weight cut won't be a problem for me. We'll go in there and perform the best way possible."

So what will be the biggest difference between the Araújo we last saw and the one we see on Saturday?

"My aggressiveness and my mental game. I'm coming with a very strong mental game. I've worked hard every single day with my psychologist. I've also trained wrestling, jiu-jitsu and boxing a lot for this fight. I've been 100 percent focused for this camp and always focused on Andrea Lee. We've studied her a lot so I can be one step ahead in the fight the whole time.

"We're both very aggressive athletes. She's an excellent striker. She has a good ground game, as well. This is a great fight for MMA fans because we'll definitely give it our all in there. I hope to walk out victorious."

This story first published at UFC.com.