It took six years, but Daniel Pineda never doubted UFC return: ‘I knew I was going to get back’

Six years after his UFC release, Daniel Pineda is back in the UFC.

After stops in Bellator, the PFL, LFA, and Fury FC, Pineda (26-13 MMA, 3-4 UFC) inked a UFC contract earlier this year. There were ups and downs along the way, but Pineda said he never questioned he’d be back.

“It feels good,” Pineda told MMA Junkie at a virtual UFC 252 pre-fight news conference Wednesday. “It was not a (long training) camp but it feels good to be back, man. I’m happy to be here. … I knew I was going to get back and give it another run. I’ve been telling the coaches and everybody I’m going to give it one more run. This is the run I’m giving.”

Prior to re-signing with the UFC, Pineda competed in PFL’s 2019 featherweight tournament. As a post-season replacement, Pineda won two fights in one night to punch his ticket into the $1 million finale. However, Pineda was flagged for having an elevated testosterone-to-epitestosterone ratio in his system. As a result, his wins were overturned to no-contests and he was suspended six months.

Despite the controversy and sidelining, Pineda had his mind elsewhere. His wife was pregnant and just birthed a baby girl. Pineda has largely been focusing on helping out his family

“You work so hard and then that happened,” Pineda said. “I mean, it just sucked, you know? … (But) I haven’t been thinking of any of that. I just had my baby girl. She’s two months. My wife has been pregnant for nine months. I’ve just been taking care of my baby and trying to work out. I knew I was going to get back in here. I knew I was going to get back in here.

“Now it’s just time to prove myself to myself and to all the fans out there and everybody else – and whoever is doubting me out there. All they do is doubt. Just wait – come Saturday night.”

Pineda has two goals for his second UFC stint, which kicks off Saturday at UFC 252. He’ll take on Herbert Burns in the main card opener.

“(I’m going to) get to the top and make as much money as I can,” Pineda said. “That’s exactly what my second run is – make as much money as I can so I can support my baby and my girl at home.”

UFC 252 takes place Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on ESPN/ESPN+.

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