Guido Cannetti’s 2022 was like no other.
The Argentine fighter, who returns to the Octagon this Saturday against Mario Bautista at UFC Fight Night 221, was able to salvage his spot on the UFC roster and revive his MMA career in dramatic fashion. As the oldest bantamweight on the UFC roster at 43, Cannetti (10-6 MMA, 4-5 UFC) defied the expectations of many.
Entering 2022, Cannetti was riding a three-fight losing streak and 1-4 in his last five bouts, with the only win dating back to 2018. It was far from an ideal circumstance. However, Cannetti firmly believed that he had more to give, even at 40, and he did.
He defeated Kris Moutinho with a series of punches to earn a first-round TKO in March 2022, then returned in October to quickly submit Randy Costa just over a minute into their fight. The submission over Costa earned Cannetti a $50,000 Performance of the Night bonus.
“I’m so happy with the moment I’m going through right now,” Cannetti told MMA Junkie in Spanish. “I come from two consecutive victories, but for me three, because I think I beat Mana Martínez.”
But the 2022 journey didn’t stop there. Outside of the world of MMA, Guido witnessed the Argentine men’s soccer team become world champions and win the 2022 FIFA World Cup in December. That, for any Argentine, was priceless.
“It was a moment that made me very happy for the players and Messi who had been fighting for it,” Cannnetti said. “Everything went wrong for Messi and everyone criticized him. I think I went through something similar. It’s like he just won America Cup, and now I’m going for the World Cup. It’s something very similar.
“You put all your effort and do everything to make things go well, but it is not like that and it is a very strange feeling. You hold on to your guns and tell yourself you’ll never give up, but at some point you think, ‘Man, what’s going on? Why don’t things work? So it’s very similar and the vibe and the energy is now on our side.
“I feel very good and I am very happy. I am enjoying things much more than before. He remembers the interviews we had before where he was crying, and he was in a terrible moment because of everything he was going through. This past 2022 was the best year of my life. I achieved everything I wanted, and I am at the happiest moment. I feel prepared for what is coming. Win or lose, I know I’m going to do my best. I feel ready to put on a show, and I feel great as a fighter and as a person.”
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As an Argentine athlete, Cannetti is very inspired by Lionel Messi and in many ways identifies with him. Messi struggled for many years to win trophies for the national team, in contrast to his success at club level. For many, it was disconcerting to see a top-level player underperform the national team.
Cannetti feels the same thing happened with his career.
“I felt very identified with Messi,” said Cannetti. “I saw it in Messi’s face, not knowing what else he could do to win. I was going through the same situation. I think when you relax and look inward and try to see it from an outsider’s perspective, you can understand certain things that just click and make everything play out the way it’s supposed to play out.
“That happened to me last year and to the soccer team. The truth is that it was an incredible year. The best year of my life, by far.”
Winning the World Cup was something Cannetti will never forget. It fills him with pride to see Messi and the rest of the squad bring back the World Cup trophy to Argentina. He hopes he can continue that streak for his country, but this time in the Octagon.
“It was a magical December and what a way to close the year,” said Cannetti. “I hope this year will be even better for me. Maybe I can break into the rankings or fight for the title at some point.”
UFC’s Guido Cannetti inspired by Lionel Messi, Argentina’s World Cup win: ‘The best year of my life’
Live results and play-by-play from UFC Fight Night 221 (3 pm ET)
UFC Fight Night 221 discussion thread
The story originally appeared on MMA Junkie