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Every champion in MMA history started somewhere.

For those who make it to the highest stage, the journey begins long before they strap on UFC, Bellator or PFL gloves. Modern-era fighters progress through the regional ranks with hopes of accomplishing the highest accolades. Many will try, few will succeed.

This month, 10 fighters on the verge of achieving major promotion notoriety – one for the second time – return to the cage for what could be their stepping-stone fight. There are dozens of fighters close to making the jump in the coming weeks, but these 10 are particularly exemplary.

Marcos Degli

Record: 11-2*
Age: 24
Height: 5’6″
Weight: Flyweight
Birthplace: Brazil
Next fight: July 6 vs. Ignacio Fernandez (8-2) at LFA 187 in Cajamar, Sao Paulo, Brazil (UFC Fight Pass)

The Skinny: The fighting journey began for Marcos Degli at 12 years old with muay Thai under master Cristian Nogueira, who he still trains under to this day. Degli hopes to join Kalindra Faria and Carlos Prates as the third UFC fighter to come out of the team. Self-described as “versatile,” “intelligent,” and “disciplined,” Degli is also pretty self-aware, since all three traits accurately reflect him. Degli’s record speaks for itself. Currently Tapology’s No. 3-ranked Brazilian flyweight, Degli’s last six opponents had a combined record of 39-13. He’s a finisher, he’s fun, and he’s only 24. A win at LFA 187 will be nine in a row – and will align him perfectly as a final roster addition to “Dana White’s Contender Series.”

“(I want to) show that I’m the best in the class, and win many victories, be a regarded as guy who built a legacy in the world of MMA, this way I’ll change my family’s life and my parents’ reality,” Degli recently told MMA Junkie through a Portuguese-language interpreter. “… I sleep and wake up thinking about it every day, I’m ready to go in and show the strength of my dream. Because I am a very dedicated guy, I would be ready for whoever is i front of me, in any area I raise doubts for my opponents and in the UFC it would be no different, I learned that the definition of luck is being prepared, so if they called me they would be impressed with my style of fight.”

* = Degli moved to 11-3 when he defeated Fernandez via TKO (ground-and-pound) – Round 1, 4:32

Carlos Leal

2023 PFL 3 Las Vegas at the The Theater at Virgin Hotels in Las Vegas, Nevada, Friday, April 14, 2023. (Cooper Neill / PFL)

Record: 20-5*
Age: 30
Height: 5’11”
Weight: Welterweight
Birthplace: Curitiba, Parana, Brazil
Next fight: July 6 vs. Manuel Mena (12-3) at LFA 187 in Cajamar, Sao Paulo, Brazil (UFC Fight Pass)

The Skinny: Martial arts came to Carlos Leal as a form of therapy after the loss of his father. He found comfort and peace through the muay Thai. His mother was his biggest supporter and helped guide him through the difficult times. Eventually, he found beliefs in God, Jesus Christ, and religion which he attributes to helping him find purpose. It was a long and winding road for Leal, who eventually got his big break in 2022. Following back-to-back wins at PFL Challenger Series, Leal stepped in to fight Ray Cooper III on short notice – and won a unanimous decision. He then fought in the 2022 PFL playoffs against Sadibou Sy and lost a unanimous decision. Leal qualified for the 2023 playoffs after two regular season wins, but Sy beat him again – this time by unanimous

Author: Staff

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