The UFC’s latest pugilist: “If he stands and trades he’ll take a beating”

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Maldonado celebrates at Bitetti Combat. Photo: Carlos Ozório

With an MMA record of 17 wins and three losses, as well as an extensive amateur and professional boxing record, Fabio Maldonado will make his UFC debut against James McSweeney on October 16 in London. In the GRACIEMAG.com interview with the Brazilian boxing specialist below, you will learn a bit more about the fighter promising UFC fans heaps of actions. So don’t be surprised if you see him asking his opponent to punch him in his face. That’s the way Maldonado likes it: brutal throwdowns.

You say you’re a specialist in boxing. How did you start out in the style?

I started the same year as Anderson Silva and the boxer Kelson Pinto, 1997 in Bragança Paulista. I did Olympic boxing up until 2001, with 45 wins, 40 losses and 27 knockouts. I participated in 19 tournaments and won 16 of them, having made it to the final of them all. The guy who would beat me the most was Claudio Aires, until I dropped down in weight because of him. I also lost once and then won against Chumbinho, who’s beaten Vitor Belfort in boxing in the past. Then I moved up in weight again and beat Claudio Aires, which was a breakthrough in my life. I’m also three-time champion of Brazil and I’ve won other important tournaments. I had a fight abroad once, but lost by decision.

In MMA, you tend to go for standup exchanges…

Boxing is my mainstay. Our hands are really skillful. You can bring in the most skillful guy in kicks around, but they won’t be better than my hands. Of course I believe in kicks, but I avoid them because I really don’t know how to kick well. Any fight I’m in, regardless of who I’m up against, I’ll keep it standing. I’m proud of that. Of course pure boxing won’t get you anywhere in MMA, as we saw with James Toney (Toney was dominated by Randy Couture), a fighter I’m a fan of. But I felt sorry for him in MMA. Boxing alone in MMA is lacking. We’re good with our hands, but we can’t let ourselves be limited in defending kicks and takedowns. I feel boxing and muay thai complete each other, as do the other styles.

Maldonado win his fight at Memorial Fight via submission. Photo: Carlos Ozório

Speaking of which, how is your ground game? Do you feel your Jiu-Jitsu is good enough for the UFC?

I’ve been a brown belt since December 2008, but I don’t consider myself a great brown belt. I’ve never competed in the gi, but I have eleven no-gi matches under my belt and I won ten of them. I believe that if I’d had more ground matches it would be better for me in MMA. I’d like to have competed more in JIu-Jitsu. I get even tenser in those matches than I do in MMA. Jiu-Jitsu is really hard. My training partner, Thiago Tavares, says I’m a good blue belt on the bottom, but on top I’m a good brown belt. But he’s my friend (laughs)!

And how do you feel the fight with James McSweeney will go?

I’ll go into the fight with good boxing. I know the guy’s a standup fighter, but I feel that, come fight time, he’ll turn into a grappler. He won’t want to stand with me. If he decides to keep it standing he’ll take a beating and change his plans. I want my debut fight to be entirely on the feet.

How did this big career move of signing with the UFC come about?

It all happened at once. I was bummed out about not having made it into a big MMA event yet and was about to return to boxing. I was going to do an international bout where I would have made double of what I’ll make at the UFC. I was going to face former world champion Jean Marc Mormeck, but now I’m happy. I’m in Florianopolis to brush up my ground game with Thiago Tavares and I have some good sparring partners to train standup with. I’ll be in shape for the 16th. I am very thankful to the events in Brazil that gave me my opportunities. I am very thankful for the chance Amaury (Bitetti) game me at Bitetti Combat. I know those fights helped bolster my record to help me sign with the UFC.

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