Boxing and MMA, MMA and boxing - how many questions do we hear about these two fight sports? A few of them were answered inside the Octagon at UFCs 1, 4 and 118, and one more is going to be answered on the upcoming UFC 120 card, as Brazilian boxer Fabio Maldonado will square off against James McSweeney in a light heavyweight showdown.
But this time, the question doesn’t ask which sport is better or how a talented boxer will face the challenges inside the Octagon, but if Maldonado, a fighter with a 22-0 (21 KOs) record in pro boxing, made the right decision when he saw himself in front of a road split in two directions: one going to boxing, the other to MMA.
You can assume that it was an easy decision, considering that the most important title Maldonado captured was the Sao Paulo League crown in 2008, but with the amount of power in his fists, and two defeats in his first four MMA fights - both when his foes used their ground game to control him – you would imagine it could discourage the native of Sorocaba, Sao Paulo to take the MMA path that led him to the UFC.
Eventually though, he began smashing opponents in MMA, and he kept fighting in both sports over the last 10 years as he reached 20 fights in MMA and more than 70 boxing matches (amateur and pro), until setting his sights on the mainstream of MMA.
"I had a dream of being world champion in boxing and MMA, something impossible to become a reality; however that was my dream," he explains his reasoning when it came to staying active in both sports.
Maintaining the high level of training and fighting in order to get the world titles in these sports is tough enough. Plus, for Maldonado, a heavyweight boxer, the indecision about which weight class he would best fit in MMA was delayed until he signed his name on the dotted line of his UFC contract. And while his 20 MMA fights transitioned between 205 pounds and heavyweight, it was a situation that Maldonado says was necessary.
"I needed to build my career and we didn't have it easy getting fights, so I was forced to fight in both divisions. So I was ready everywhere, every time and against anyone; just call me and I would be there."
Even though Maldonado was seen as a boxer in MMA without many tools on the ground, the 30-year old athlete trained Brazilian Jiu-jitsu since 2000, but not diligently. And he began fighting with a three month white belt in BJJ around his waist in what he considered to be a period of the sport that wasn’t as tough as it is nowadays.
But then Maldonado was introduced to former UFC heavyweight interim champion Minotauro Nogueira in 2004 and since then he started to spar with guys like middleweight kingpin Anderson Silva, heavyweight contender Junior 'Cigano' dos Santos, Rogerio Nogueira and many others. From the start of his contact with these men, a friendship emerged and Maldonado was a new man, one who trained more to be a complete fighter, and who step by step got more wins in MMA.
"I am not a boxer with a few months of wrestling and BJJ; I am entering the UFC with good experience in grappling," he says. "In a MMA match BJJ is fundamental; I always believed in that and I am confident in my BJJ nowadays. I know that it is very different from my start to my current level for someone to take me down and submit me."
Submission, BJJ, wrestling - the truth is that even though Maldonado was getting more experienced in these aspects of MMA, he was able to use his grappling techniques only once in 18 fights. What spoke louder were his fists and his accuracy when it came to knocking adversaries out with his boxing pedigree. And that is what he brings from boxing, along with an extraordinary ability to absorb punishment with the small gloves, as his iron chin has been tested by men like Maiquel Falcao, K-1 veteran Vitor Miranda and mammoth Edgar Castaldelli.
"Well, you can expect me doing it in UFC,” he said. “However this is not just letting the guy hit you; you have some technique in this absorption when you take off a bit of the strike's precision, and of course some have better chins than others."
For this UFC 120 bout, the Sorocaba hero (as Maldonado is known in his homeland city) started his preparation in his backyard with BJJ black belt Christian Keller, boxing coach Leandro Rufino and strength and conditioning coach Paulo Manzini. But in order to increase his level of training, Maldonado worked in Florianopolis, Santa Catarina for the last stage of his training with Thiago Tavares - all to repeat then the successful routine of glory that has him arriving in the UFC with a 10 fight winning streak.
Maldonado has already fought four times in 2010, so for him the short notice fight in front of him isn't a problem. He’s used to stepping in with small breaks between the fights that he won and didn't suffer any serious injuries, and Maldonado comes to his debut thinking that there is no better opponent for him this Saturday than McSweeney.
"I'm a warrior who never gives up, and the fight only ends when I come out victorious, so if we are with 10 seconds to go, I will be fighting with my all efforts," Maldonado said. "I know McSweeney has good striking and isn't blind on the ground, but I see him like a good foe for my first time in the UFC. I will do my best to knock him out, and with my ground game polished to be ready for all situations, I think my game is superior than his."
ファビオ・マルドナルド - コンプリート・ボクサー