It’s been more than a year since Neiman Gracie suffered his first professional loss, but the Brazilian submission ace is anxious to show his improvement.

“Thankfully, I managed to have an excellent preparation for this fight,” Gracie told MMA Junkie. “I managed to do my entire camp at master Renzo Gracie’s gym in New York City. Despite the pandemic, I found some training partners and managed to prepare very well. I got ready under Jamie Crowder, John Danaher and Renzo Gracie.”

Gracie (9-1 MMA, 7-1 BMMA) takes on Jon Fitch (32-7-2 MMA, 1-0 BMMA) at Bellator 246 on Saturday at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. The main card airs on Paramount and streams on DAZN following prelims on MMA Junkie.

Gracie returns to action for the first time since suffering a five-round decision loss to Rory MacDonald in the semifinal of Bellator’s welterweight grand prix in June 2019. While he certainly would have preferred a victory, Gracie said he did benefit from the contest.

“It was an excellent fight,” Gracie said. “But I think I allowed him to stall from the top position for far too long. I should have tried to get up and continue fighting on the feet. But it was a great learning experience – a great fight against a great champion.”

Gracie was originally schedule to return in December, but injury forced him to withdraw from a planned Bellator 236 bout with Kiichi Kunimoto in Hawaii.

“Unfortunately, I broke my hand one week before the fight and I had to pull out,” Gracie said. “Thankfully, the hand is already back to 100 percent and I’m ready for my next bout.”

That comes Saturday in the form of Fitch, the 18-year pro who is still competing at a high level even at age 42, unbeaten since 2014. It’s an opportunity for Gracie to test himself against another grizzled veteran, and it brings the classic matchup of wrestling vs. jiu-jitsu. Gracie believes that means true excitement awaits.

“I think he’s a very tough guy and a sports legend, and even though he is older, I believe he is in a great moment in his career,” Gracie said. “I think it’s going to be a great fight – a war fought mainly through grappling.”

A win would do wonders for Gracie’s career, which had been perfect prior to the blemish. Putting a signature name on his record would again prove he’s deserving of the hype that surrounded him before the setback.

Gracie plans on capitalizing on the moment.

“I would like to thank all the fans for their support and say that I am ready to make have a great fight and put on another great show,” Gracie said.