Thomas Almeida cleared to return two years after eye surgery, still aims for UFC belt

Thomas Almeida (pictured, blue gloves) emerged as one of the most exciting bantamweights when he joined the UFC in 2014. | Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Almost two years after announcing he was out of a UFC fight due to a left eye issue that required surgery, Thomas Almeida is finally “100 percent” cleared by the doctors to enter the cage again.

“Thominhas” hasn’t fought since a loss to Rob Font in January 2018. After sparring for the first time in many months, Almeida is getting his rhythm back while waiting for a call from the promotion. The ideal scenario would be a fight at UFC Brasilia on March 14, he said, but “fighting is what matters the most.”

“Health comes first,” Almeida told MMA Fighting. “An athlete must know how to deal with this. Highs and lows, being active or inactive. I needed that time off to rest, and I used that to recover from other injuries as well. I’m ready now, so let’s go for it.”

The Chute Boxe fighter said he treated many injuries he accumulated over his busy schedule as a fighter, competing 25 times in seven years, but nothing as serious as his left eye issues.

“I went to Los Angeles to get cleared by the doctor, and now I’m cleared. That’s extra motivation for me,” Almeida said. “I’m gonna focus now and wait for the UFC to book my next fight. I got wood to burn. I already spoke with my manager and he’s on it to set something up.”

Almeida bursted onto the scene as a 17-0 knockout artist from Brazil when he signed with the UFC and beat Tim Gorman in his promotional debut in 2014. Thominhas was on a roll the next year, knocking out Yves Jabouin, Brad Pickett and Anthony Birchak before tasting defeat for the first time against future champion Cody Garbrandt.

Victorious in only one of his last four, Almeida returns “a more experienced man, who studies the game and focuses on the details a lot more.” The next fighter to share the eight-sided cage with him is just a formality, he says, but taking a tune-up fight after such a long layoff is not something he even considers.

“I was never a guy to mention names,” Almeida said. “I’ll be ready for whoever the UFC offers. I’ll train hard and do my work, which is brawl, like I’ve always done.”

If his body permits, the 28-year-old talent plans to stay as active as he was in his heyday and vows to be as aggressive as every Chute Boxe fighter. The ultimate goal remains the same, which is “become UFC champion.”

“I can’t change who I am,” Almeida said. “I was raised in brawls, but I have to be smart and know when it’s time to walk forward and engage. You’ll see next time I fight. I can’t talk too much. I don’t like to talk too much, I like to do.”

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