GRACIEMAG: How are you leading up to this decisive clash with Travis Browne at the April 19 UFC in Orlando?
FABRICIO WERDUM: I feel in the best moment of my career. I’m 36 and I’m living my most professional phase as a fighter. I’m also a UFC commentator in the Spanish version that goes out to Latin America. And I have a third responsibility as the UFC ambassador in Latin America. My role is to introduce the sport and explain the UFC to people who don’t know it. Not to the fans, but to the new potential spectators. So I have three jobs in the UFC: fighter, commentator and ambassador. And physically and technically I feel very good.
So you’re constantly either training or traveling – is that it?
Yes. The UFC sends me to Mexico, Colombia, Chile and many other countries. I stay in each place for three days and promote the outfit in every medium. The UFC is investing a lot in these new markets. I also tape the show “UFC Ahora,” a Spanish-language version of “UFC Now,” with Kenny Florian and Daniel Cormier. There’s also a Latin American “TUF” in the works, whose registration is still open for rookie athletes. The coach must be Cain Velasquez, against either me or Travis Browne. Whoever wins this bout is going to be a “TUF” coach in Latin America. It will be special, as the reality show will be gathering fighters from many countries.
How is your camp for the Travis fight?
The training is excellent; I’ve now been training for seven years with Professor Rafael Cordeiro at Kings MMA gym. The wrestling aspect is in the hands of Kenny Johnson, who adapts takedowns to MMA like no one. For almost two years I’ve been honing my BJJ and doing physical preparation at Rubens Cobrinha’s academy. Today I weight 109kg and feel great. Cobrinha is a very serious guy as a coach, he demands a lot of repetition, so I think I’m going in very well technically as well.
How do you evaluate your BJJ today?
I hear a lot of people in MMA say: “You don’t need to train BJJ anymore; you’re already good.”I think the exact opposite. Since everybody already knows my BJJ is strong, I must practice that much more to get it even better – otherwise my foes will be able to avoid it easily. These days I get to Cobrinha’s school at 8 a.m. and he only lets me leave at 2:30 p.m.! I’m on the mat the whole time – I only step off it to eat something and take supplements. I don’t want to have happen to me what I saw happen to many BJJ fighters who started training boxing and muay thai and had their games change completely. I’m aware that my game is on the ground. Once
we’re down, I know the fight must be finished; I can’t lose the position.
What is the worst part about transitioning from BJJ to the UFC?
Getting hit in the face, of course. If you watch my bouts you’ll see I don’t take many punches when I’m on the ground. I manage to defend well down there – the guy does hit, but not very hard. What helped me a lot in my transition was the self-defense program at the Behring schools. Behring, Corleta e Hunter – that makes all the difference. It’s the strong base for the guy to defend himself in the octagon.
What is Travis’ strong point?
He has very sharp muay thai and showed it recently. He has three wins with the best KO of the night, and that certainly cannot be underestimated. Travis Browne is doing his game so well that many of his fights don’t even get to the ground. That is also a consequence of his good takedown defense. He has a good elbow strike, but I remind fans I also have two elbows. If he hesitates I can throw one as well. But I’m calm; I’ll have 25 minutes to take him down, and I know we’re gonna hit the canvas.
With the event being in Orlando, you expect a lot of incentive from Brazilians from there, right?
I hope so; I hope there’s a noisy crowd there. If they chant, “Uh, vai cavalo!” [“Go, racehorse!” perhaps] then I’m gonna get emotional. I hope for a big number of supporters, also from Brazil through the TV. The last few times I went to Brazil I saw the people have been rooting for me more, respecting me for my recent wins. I ask them to really do it, because the positive energy from the people travels all the way to the octagon, and I’m leaving there with another victory to get me closer to the heavyweight belt.