On February 26, 2000, Renato “Babalu” Sobral was riding a twelve-fight winning streak, two of them on the same night. At Japan’s Rings tournament, Babalu faced Dan Henderson in the final, before which he defeated fighters the likes of Gilbert Yvel and Rodrigo Minotauro. In the deciding bout for the event, the now-Gracie Barra black belt ended up beaten in a hard-fought battle, losing by majority decision.
A little over ten years later, the matchup will resurface, now at the December Strikeforce event. In a conversation with GRACIEMAG.com, Babalu remarks on the challenge:
You’ve faced off in the past. What are your thoughts on this rematch with Henderson?
I feel this fight has nothing to do with the first one. It’s happening ten years later and I see the opportunity as a celebration of my career, coming full circle. As they say: The world is round, it goes around. Ten years later we meet again and it’s unbelievable. I’m going to go after him to beat the hell out of him! I’m going in there with all the happiness in the world for being able to face him again after having been through so much.
Jiu-Jitsu is as fatal as a punch to the chin. If he falters, he’s out!” Renato Babalu
What’s changed for you and him since the first fight?
Everything’s changed, be it in training, preparations and vision. It’s easier to talk about what has not changed. What hasn’t changed is my heart, that’s still the same. And his too seems to be the same. We’ll be in the event’s main event and I hope that it’s the fight of the year.
If you win this fight, do you feel next up will be a fight for the title that was once yours?
My challenge is Dan Henderson. I’m not thinking about anything after that. My focus is 100% on him.
There’s a big chance the fight will play out on the ground. Could Jiu-Jitsu be your main weapon against Henderson?
Jiu-Jitsu is always a fatal weapon, like Werdum proved against Fedor. It’s fatal, like a punch on the chin, and I’m training a lot. If he falters, he’s out!
I want to bury him once and for all!” Renato Babalu
Henderson left the UFC and ended up losing in his Strikeforce debut against Jake Shields. Do you feel that may have shaken his confidence?
I don’t want to know about it. If that’s how he feels, I want to bury him once and for all!
How are you going to go about preparing from here on out?
There’s a tough crew helping me out. Rafael Cordeiro is my main coach for this fight, Werdum’s with me and Ratinho’s taking care of the grappling part. There’s also Mark Munoz in wrestling, Jason Miller and a bunch of others. It’s a big crew, there’s no way to name them all.
What can you guarantee your fans on GRACIEMAG.com?
Anyone who follows my career can expect this to be my best fight of all.