The next engagement of Fabricio Werdum, the heavyweight UFC star, is set. It will take place Feb. 22, when the two-time world BJJ champion (2003, 2004) will meet no-gi star Gordon Ryan. The California-based Brazilian, who was handed a two-year suspension from the UFC, has been thinking about how he plans to handle the phenom from Renzo Gracie Academy.
“We will be fighting in Mexico at the Eddie Bravo Invitational (EBI), under combat jiu-jitsu rules, which is grappling plus slapping — a no-gi fight that allows for slaps when the athletes are on the ground,” Werdum told Graciemag on the phone. “It will be a minitournament with four fighters, with Josh Barnett and another one yet o be confirmed. The prize for the champion will be 20,000 dollars.” According to the organization, the fourth man will be Vinny “Pezão” Magalhães, an old acquaintance of Werdum’s — the Gracie Tijuca fighter foiled Werdum’s third ADCC title in 2011 in England, in the over-99kg final. Barnett, a former UFC champion, was recently submitted in a no-gi event in the U.S.
“My training will again be with Yuri Simões, who, as well as having fought Ryan a few times, will also be participating at EBI,” Werdum added. “As people know, Gordon is more of a leg lock specialist; he likes catching feet and heels. He’s very strong, one of the best grapplers in activity for sure, but I think things change a lot with the slapping involved. It’s a different game; all I think about is the knockout. In my mind, it’s all about the knockout. If it’s in the rules, we’re gonna go for it. But you have to know how to use it — not just think of slapping and forgetting about the jiu-jitsu. It’s gotta be an intelligent game. I’ve always liked trading slaps at the gym since I was a kid. Let’s see how Gordon behaves in this style, whether he will also display heart.”
Werdum and Yuri Simões have a curious history together. They met training in Rio de Janeiro, when the former was already a champion, with classic duels fought against Marcio Pé de Pano, and Yuri was just eight years old. Today, alongside Rubens Cobrinha, Yuri is the key piece in the preparation of the ex-UFC champion, making him sweat in practice no-gi matches and updating his game with many tricks regarding the guard and guard-passing.
“I remain active despite the unfair suspension by the Usada,” said Werdum. “People told me they would reduce my penalty if I snitched on other UFC athletes who were doping, but I repudiated that; I’m no snitch, nor would I ever harm anybody’s life.”