UFC on ESPN+13's Andre Fili on recent evolution: 'I wasn't being completely true to myself'

When Andre Fili first stepped into the UFC cage at 22, Team Alpha Male had his back. Six years and 12 fights later, that hasn’t changed.

On Saturday night, Fili (19-6 MMA, 7-5 UFC) returns to action for the first time since February when he takes on Sheymon Moraes (11-3 MMA, 2-2 UFC) at UFC on ESPN+ 13 from Golden1 Center in Sacramento, Calif.

Usually, Fili enters with his teammates behind him, but this weekend they’ll be marching side by side. Fellow Team Alpha Male members Josh Emmett, Benito Lopez, Darren Elkins, Liu Pingyuan, and pack-leader Urijah Faber are all slated to fight on the card.

“I love it, man,” Fili told MMA Junkie. “I’m a very us vs. them person. We’re a (expletive) war tribe, man. We’re on the march together. Fighting is an individual sport to some degree, but having a team that has your back and pushes you to be better every day is huge. It’s really a big part of it for me.

“Team Alpha Male, those guys have really supported me for a really long time. I’m trying to pay them back. Urijah (Faber) invested in me when there wasn’t much to invest in. I’m just trying to make my big homies proud. I want to represent the team and want to give back on the investment.”

From the time Fili first passed through the doors of Team Alpha Male until now, he’s evolved tremendously as a fighter and as a person. It hasn’t always been smooth sailing for the now-29-year-old featherweight.

“When I was young, I just did this because I loved it,” Fili said. “Then I did it so I could be in the UFC, and I still loved it. Then I got into the UFC, and I was like, ‘What’s everyone else doing? What’s Anderson (Silva) doing? What’s Demetrious (Johnson) doing? I want to be the best. I want to be the best that’s ever done it. I want to be in the Mount Rushmore of MMA. I want to be a pound-for-pound guy. How are they doing it? Let me take some of that.’

“But I kind of stopped being true to myself. I’ve never faked it. What you see is what you get. You’re always going to get me. I’m always going to be genuine, but I wasn’t being completely true to myself and the way I like to train. I was sort of doing what I thought you were supposed to do to get to the next level instead of just being my (expletive) self completely and just enjoying the ride, man, and doing what got me to the show in the first place.”

From early 2013 to mid-2017, Fili alternated wins and losses each trip to the cage. Since rediscovering his true love for MMA and competition, Fili has gone 3-1 with one close split decision loss to Michael Johnson.

“This is the best I’ve ever been, and I’m getting better every day, man,” Fili said. “I really feel like I’m growing as a person, I’m growing as an athlete, and I’m growing as a fighter. I just feel great. I’m thankful to get to do what I love, and I’m thankful I’m one of the best in the world at it.”

For the latest on UFC on ESPN+ 13, check out the UFC schedule.

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