Maldonado: no thoughts of title, but “would love to face Rampage”

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Photos: Josh Hedges

After a UFC deal came from out of the blue and without even time to properly prepare for his debut, Fabio Maldonado is reaping the rewards of victory against James McSweeney last Saturday in England at UFC 120.

“Now I’m going to take a rest, go to a dude ranch and kick back! The UFC opened a lot of doors for me; I’ve received a number of offers and I’ll take the opportunity to figure it out. But next week, I’m back in training full on!” remarks Maldonado.

Following his knockout win on the debut, in a chat with GRACIEMAG.com, the fighter breaks down what he needs to improve on, comments on the thorny light heavyweight division, and reveals his dream of facing Quinton Jackson.

Check it out:

You let a few finishes slip away in the fight. How do you hope to fix that?

Truth is, McSweeney asked to stop when I had the americana lock, but the ref didn’t hear him and he continued. I also could have had him with the rear-naked choke, but I let him get out. What I trained hardest was grappling, but I got really nervous in the fight. I have to do some fine-tuning, of course, and work on my wrestling, too. But I don’t feel I did too bad on the ground. I may have let some positions get away, I could have finished or whatever, but it didn’t happen. Despite not having gotten the submission, I wailed on him on the ground. I have a lot to improve on in Jiu-Jitsu and standing, too. I’m going to keep working on positions because I didn’t used to do so. Now I have to work a lot on my ground game with Thiago Tavares at Ataque Duplo gym.

I want to hit and really make them feel it” Maldonado

Your specialty is boxing. Do you feel that in the UFC that’s not enough?

This business about being complete is tricky. Everyone says that. In my case, I have to make up for everything else with my hands. Of course we have to improve on everything. I’ve been doing well in wrestling practice and been rolling well with black belts. But training is one thing and fighting another. I read an article where Babalu stressed the importance of competing. When something is on the line, the game gets tougher, there’s no letting up. Now my kicks, for example, are a crying shame. I have to improve on everything, but I also have to make my hands better. I want to hit and really strike fear in them.

In your division of the UFC, who are your favorite fighters?

Man, the light heavyweight division is the most stacked and the latest champions, aside from Lyoto, couldn’t manage to defend even once. They are top-tier fighters and it would be totally out of place for me to talk of the belt now. Although he hasn’t had good appearances in his last two fights, I like Minotouro a lot. Shogun is perhaps the best of all times at this weight. There’s also Jon Jones, Chuck Liddell, Thiago Silva, Banha, Rashad Evans, Quinton Jackson… A lot of good guys.

And who of them would you like to fight?

Man, I feel Quinton Jackson is great and I’d love to fight him. It would be a great fight, wouldn’t it? I feel his wrestling’s better than mine, but my Jiu-Jitsu and boxing are better than his. It would be awesome! I only wouldn’t face Minotouro in my weight group; I’d rather leave the UFC than fight him.

What’s your analysis of your debut?

I was really nervous, afraid of getting tired and putting on a bad performance. I already had it in my head that I’d take the punishment early on. He moved around, kicked my legs, kneed my head… But I took it until it was my turn. I didn’t have much time to drop weight. I had nineteen days to droop from 106 kg (233 lbs) to 92 kg (202 lbs). I won’t be subject to that anymore.

And what about McSweeney asking out and continuing to fight? What did you think of that?

I felt it was due to my own incompetence. He said ‘stop’ twice and I ended up losing the hold. Truth is, he managed to escape, and I don’t think he even needed to ask to stop if he’d just been a little more patient. I carried on normally and called him to fight standing. I said ‘let’s settle this business on our feet.’

I’d like to say how happy I am to be in the UFC and to thank Rodrigo Minotouro and Alex Davis. If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be here. Now can I leave out Mr. Pepe, de Santos, and Thiago Tavares, who helped me a lot.

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