Shooto World champion Willamy “Chiqueirim” Freire handed over the organizational belt and dove in to his new commitment with the UFC. August 1 marks his debut against also-Brazilian Thiago Tavares; a matchup announced first hand here on GRACIEMAG.com, with whom he sat down and spoke of his expectations for his next big challenge.
You held the Shooto World belt, a title recognized the world over. How do you feel about having an opportunity in the UFC?
I’m really happy. If God put me in this event, it’s because there’s some purpose for me there. That’s what I believe. This whole battle I went through to get here – with 11-straight victories – was a process of learning. I feel good about where I am right now and that’s what’s important.
What are your thoughts on facing Thiago Tavares?
I’d rather face a non-Brazilian, but when it comes down to it it makes no difference. He’s an opponent like any other. This is what I do and my profession comes first. Thiago’s an experienced fighter who has had many fights and likes to go on the attack. I’m just coming in, but I’m stoked about this fight. I think the crowd’s going to love it.
What about the lightweight division? Do you agree that it’s one of the most stacked divisions out there?
It’s one of the toughest out there. All the fighters are top. They’re all first rate and you’ll only make it to the top by working hard and showing a lot of heart. It’ll be rough.
Thiago Tavares is a Jiu-Jitsu specialist and you lean more towards striking. Are you prepared to go to the ground with him and the others out there in the UFC?
I’ve been training a lot of grappling and emphasizing wrestling. But I’m working on my striking more than ever and my muay thai is up to speed. I feel I’m prepared to fight on the ground, but I’d rather fight standing. If I have to go to the ground, though, I’m ready.
I’d like to thank everyone: Completa Nova União, and the gang from GRACIEMAG.com.