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Like many of the great grapplers of the modern era, Fabricio Werdum first came to most people's attention at ADCC 2003. This was the event that served as the coming out party for Marcelo Garcia, Roger Gracie and Jacare Souza among others. Where Marcelo and Roger elected to stay in BJJ for a few more years, Werdum quickly transitioned into MMA, being one of the most high level competitors to do so (along with Jacare).
In the opening round, Werdum defeated well known UFC HW contender Tsuyoshi Kohsaka (TK). Sadly this match, like many from ADCC 2003, is lost to time owing to the production crew somehow fouling up their recording. This match would take on a certain historical significance however as TK was the first man to ever defeat Fedor Emelianenko in the RINGS promotion on a cut stoppage. Most wrote off the loss as an undeserved blemish on the great Fedor's career. Ironically, it would be Werdum who would hand the great champion his first incontestable loss a decade later.
An upset over then perennial medalist Tata Duarte would see Palestinian-American wrestler Jehad Hamdan draw Werdum next. Werdum dispatched both Hamdan and another wrestler in Mike Van Arsdale in the semi-finals. In the final, Werdum met reigning Mundials champion Marcio Pe de Pano Cruz, falling to a head and arm choke submission. Despite the loss, Werdum put on a decent showing and at the time was considered an intriguing rival for the seemingly unstoppable Pe de Pano due to the fact that he had a similar build and weight (thought to be a decisive factor in Pe de Pano's victories).
Miraculously, these prognostications were proven accurate the very next day as both Werdum and Pe de Pano entered the absolute. Werdum demolished Olympic wrestler and MMA fighter Matt Lindland and Pride Fighter Akira Shoji, both by armbar. In the semifinals, he lost a lackluster match to Cacareco Ferreira, but he would go on to face Pe de Pano in the 3rd place match. He would defeat the celebrated champion on points, causing his star to shine ever brighter. Just a few months later, Fabricio would win a gold medal at black belt at the IBJJF Worlds.
A month after his win at the worlds. Werdum jumped right back into MMA. He had already had a few fights against the always tough James Zikic and GSP's coach Kristof Midoux, both of which he won, but it would be against Gabriel Napao Gonzaga at the inaugural Jungle Fight (co-promoted by famed Japanese pro wrestler Antonio Inoki and Carlson Gracie black belt Wallid Ismael) that Werdum would really jump onto people's radar. Gonzaga was a well respected black belt who had only recently taken 2nd in the absolute at the CBJJO World Cup (an event Werdum competed in successfully as well). The sweltering heat made it a miserable affair for these two young prospects, with Gonzaga controlling the opening frame and even mounting Werdum at a certain point. Werdum seemed to have the better gas tank, however, and he'd go on to defeat Gonzaga by TKO in the 3rd.
Now these accomplishments may sound straightforward, but they're really not when you put them in the context of Werdum's life. First, he was a black belt under Sylvio Behring, who he came to when his original instructor, Marcio Corletta, merged his team with the Behrings to create Winner/Behring. We've all heard the story of how Werdum ended up at Corleta's gym after being submitted by his ex-girlfriend's ex-boyfriend. What's usually omitted from that story is that Werdum was only a teenager when that altercation took place. After he started training, Werdum tried and failed to challenge the guy to a rematch. Werdum soon moved off to Spain with his mom, but continued training, building his own academy as a purple belt, only training with pure noobs and then returning to take 3rd at the Worlds as a brown belt in 2002 followed by his ADCC win and his 2003 gold medal at black. As such, Werdum was, from the outset, the outsider's outsider. An interesting footnote is that Werdum's old coach Corleta would face Pe de Pano in the 2001 worlds twice as well, winning the weight class over him, but getting tapped out via triangle in the absolute.
Werdum followed up his Jungle Fight win with another in the second show held by the promotion, retiring veteran fighter Ebenezer Fontes Braga by KO. It was following this victory that he made a connection that would change his life. In 2004 K-1 fighter turned MMA superstar Mirko Cro Cop was scouring Europe for high quality BJJ instruction. Owing to his familiarity with the continent and his championship pedigree, it was Werdum who answered Cro Cop's call. Werdum and one of his coaches from Winner/Behring, Mauricio Pereira, went to Croatia to help Cro Cop build a decent ground game, while also learning the fundamentals of striking. Not everyone was thrilled with this move, to say the least. Some Brazilians took exception to the fact that Werdum was helping the Croation defeat jiu jitsu, but others had more personal concerns. Sylvio Behring felt the exchange was not even. At the time he said jiu jitsu is easy to learn and pick up quickly whereas kickboxing can take years to master the timing and cadences. He worried his pupil would be seduced into thinking he was better than he was on his feet and his chin would suffer the consequences. Years later, Sylvio would claim Werdum had turned his back on him.
Mauricio and Werdum continued their exchange, however. Cro Cop went 10-1 during that period (losing only via flash KO to Kevin Randleman and earned himself a title shot against Fedor. Thanks to Cro Cop's influence, Werdum would be given a contract with Pride. He handed the always fearsome Tom Erikson his second MMA loss and also submitted Red Devil team up and comer Roman Zenstov in his first couple Pride fights. Throughout this period, Werdum would always make time to go back and compete in BJJ events, with mixed results. But he had a return to form at the 2005 edition of ADCC taking third at weight after losing a tough semi-final to Jeff Monson and defeating Daniel Simoes Gracie. Weirdly, he faced his old instructor Marcio Corleta in the weight class quarter-finals. He didn't fare as well in the absolute, losing to Roger Gracie via RNC in the quarter finals.
Back in the MMA world, Werdum lost a close decision to Sergei Kharitonov and then proceeded to decision Jon Olav Einemo. The Einemo match was actually pretty significant for its time because it was two very high level grapplers going at it in MMA and they actually chose to contest a significant portion of the fight on the ground. Sylvio Behring's admonitions about Werdum becoming too comfortable with the striking game started to seem founded in these two fights as Werdum would frequently stiffly charge forward flailing strikes with little regard for either defense or sitting down on his punches. Despite that, the Werdum/Einemo fight was pretty fun to watch and still is.
In the opening round of the 2006 Pride HW Grand Prix, Werdum was looking like a decent contender. In the opening round, he submitted Alistair Overeem, who was not yet the Reem he would one day become, but was no slouch either, having not too long prior won the ADCC European qualifiers. Immediately afterward, tragedy struck. Mauricao Pereira, Werdum's coach and friend, was tragically gunned down back in Brazil following an argument. A short few weeks later, Werdum had to face his toughest test in former Heavyweight champion Antonio Rodrigo Minotauro Nogueira. The fight was remarkably close considering the circumstances. Few doubted that Werdum was a more talented grappler, but Big Nog's boxing was considerably sharper and his experience deploying jiu jitsu in MMA made him savvy enough to avoid trouble on the ground.
Werdum took some time off following the loss of his coach. He submitted Fedor's younger brother Aleks at a 2 Hot 2 Handle promotion in Holland. He would then sign with the UFC following the immolation of Pride. He went 2-2 in his early UFC career, kicking things off by losing an uninspiring match to Andrei Arlovski. He made time to jump back into ADCC, taking gold in his weight class, though he benefited from a pretty thin bracket, defeating Rolles Gracie in the final. He returned to the UFC the following year, beating a resurgent Gonzaga and an in between weights Brandon Vera. He was knocked out by Junior Dos Santos in the latter fighter's UFC debut and inexplicably released.
Werdum found new life in Strikeforce and made a transition to training with Chute Boxe to sharpen his kickboxing skills. At the time, there was a schism in the famed muay thai academy as top masters Rudimar Fedrigo and Rafael Cordeiro decided to part ways. Werdum stuck with Cordeiro and moved to the US. Under his tutelage, he went 2-0 in Strikeforce and still found time to go back and win another ADCC, outpointing Saulo Ribeiro and Cyborg Abreu along the way. When he returned to MMA this time, he would finally face the man his career had been dancing around for years: Fedor.
By the time of their fight, Fedor had been undefeated for 10 years. Werdum was absolutely not considered to be the guy who was going to break that streak. Fedor had, after all, made most of his career pummeling the best submission grapplers in the world into the mat. But Werdum had gotten a lot of looks at Fedor. He'd helped Cro Cop train for him. He had only a couple years prior defeated his brother. He outgrappled the last guy who beat him and he had faced at least two of his proteges in Kharitonov and Zenstov. Whether that factored into his shocking submission win over Fedor or whether it was just a pure hail mary triangle choke is anyone's guess. What we know is that Werdum ended Fedor's streak. He finished Fedor. Nuff said.
After defeating Fedor, Werdum had a mostly listless and forgettable fight against a timid Alistair Overeem. The less said about that match, the better. He returned to ADCC in 2011 and faced the toughest bracket in years. He still managed to look sharp, outpointing Alexander Trans and submitting Jeff Monson. He would again defeat Roberto Cyborg Abreu in the semi-finals, but lost a barnburner of a match against Vinny Magalhaes by points in the finals. Most notably, he had Vinny in a tight, perfect armbar, but Vinny managed to somehow squirm out. The match is definitely worth watching if you haven't seen it.
With Strikeforce having folded, Werdum returned to the UFC. This Werdum looked like a completely different fighter having finally after over a decade really figured out his striking game. He decisioned an always game Roy Nelson and took apart Mike Russow. He also finally avenged his loss against Big Nog via submission in a fight we really didn't need to see. His next fight saw him upset Travis Browne by completely picking him apart with his muay thai skills and those same skills would earn him the interim Heavyweight title when he KOed former K-1 champ Mark Hunt with a flying knee.
Now Werdum faces Cain Velasquez to unify the belts and settle who the real Heavyweight champion is. To call it Werdum's stiffest test would be to overlook a life and career that's been filled with them. Werdum is the guy who finds a way to defy the odds. He has done so by remaining an outsider in a sport that puts so much pressure on athletes to hunker down with a particular team or training philosophy. Fabricio Vai Cavalo Werdum has done a great deal by following the beat of his own drummer. Will it be enough to stop the juggernaut that is Velasquez? It seems unlikely, but with Werdum, that doesn't seem to matter. It will be an interesting style match up of wrestling and American kickboxing vs. Brazilian jiu jitsu and muay thai. This new iteration of Werdum seems willing to impose his game rather than waiting for the fight to come to him as he's sometimes done in the past. This is a testament to Werdum's ability to reinvent himself, which is difficult for any fighter, but particularly a veteran. Win, lose or draw, Werdum will come to fight hard and will likely defy expectations.
Mike Swick finds himself in something of a unique situation as he prepares to make his comeback at UFC 189. He has been on the roster for an entire decade and competed inside the Octagon no fewer than 14...
Former champion Johny Hendricks is ready to get that welterweight title back.
And he'll attend UFC 189 on July 11 to...
UFC informs Donald Cerrone that he's next for a title shot, and he'll have to wait on Rafael dos Anj
It might be an excruciating summer for Donald Cerrone, but the UFC is asking him to sit tight and wait.
On Wednesday's edition of UFC Tonight it was reported that Cerrone has been informed...
One week after Jose Aldo gave a very detailed and angry interview about how dissatisfied he was with the new UFC and Reebok deal, his coach and head of the Nova Uniao gym, Andre Pederneiras, had some pretty surprising counterpoints, which he revealed to Portal do Vale Tudo.
While Aldo suggested all fighters should get together to fight the new deal in order not to lose their sponsorship money, especially the newcomers who earn less than everybody else, Pederneiras defended the business aspect of the agreement. He also believes whoever is unhappy with the deal should leave the UFC.
"The UFC is a private company. It's like my gym, it's mine and no one should say anything about it. If I come up with a rule that must be followed by everybody, whoever is unhappy should say ‘I don't like to work under those conditions and I'm leaving'. Cool, that's their right. But if they want to work for me, they need to accept the rule. Unfortunately, not all rules will benefit everybody. They must understand the UFC makes rules for the well-being of the company. If the UFC goes bankrupt tomorrow, not a single fighter will hand Dana White and the Fertittas money from their pockets to pay their bills. Here's what I think, if you're there, you must subject yourself to the rules. Whoever doesn't want to, should leave."
Pederneiras' also disagrees with the potential fighter's union, which was also brought up by Jose Aldo last week. For him, fighters just don't understand how a company works.
"Now, fighters wanting to get together and start a rebellion against the UFC, I don't think that's the way to go. Everyone who owns a company will agree with me. Sometimes employees don't understand, but an owner must know what's best for his business, which is what the UFC is doing and it's something I have done many times."
LINK: Pederneiras defends Reebok deal, calls potential union a 'rebellion' against the UFC - Bloody Elbow
Ben Rothwell's evening at UFC Fight Night 68 could scarcely have gone better.
The heavyweight contender turned heads with a Darth Vader-like walkout; dazzled in the Octagon with a quick submission of Matt Mitrione; then delivered a post-fight interview which had set the Twitterverse abuzz.
Just one problem: The UFC's brass took the night off, and Big Ben's having trouble getting in touch.
"I felt gypped," Rothwell said on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour. "Dana White wasn't there, Joe Silva wasn't there, I felt gypped. Joe Rogan wasn't there. These fights were a big deal, and the three stars of the UFC weren't even there. I kind of felt gypped."
What turned out to be an epic evening of fights in the Big Easy was done without Rothwell's boss in the house.
"I just wanna talk to him," Rothwell said. "I talked to Joe Silva, and Joe Silva said it's even hard for him to talk to Dana White. Dana White is a bigger star than all of us, I don't think he has time for us. I don't think he even watches UFC. It's funny."
And what would Rothwell say if he got White's ear? Well, for one thing, Rothwell's made it clear he wants a fight with Andrei Arlosvki, which would be a rematch of a wild Affliction brawl won by Arlovski in 2008.
But in the near term, Rothwell wants to be a part of the UFC Fan Expo in Las Vegas next month.
"I want to talk to Dana White because I want to be at the UFC Fan Expo. I'm looking at the list and seeing these people and I don't even know who they are. You've got the champions coming, you've got the veterans, Matt Hughes and Chuck Liddell, awesome. Then there's a group of people who are signing and I don't even know who they are. Really? I want to be there for the fans. They're trying to get autographs.
Link to full story: Ben Rothwell tries to get Dana White's attention: 'UFC kind of doesn't give a s--- about me' - MMA Fighting
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