Vinny Magalhães: Chael Sonnen Only Talks Crap To Promote Himself


MMASucka columnist Geordie McCredie had the opportunity to chat with former TUF contestant and Jiu Jitsu all star Vinny Magalhães. In the interview he chats about his active guard game, the fact that he is up for submission of the year award and his opinion on the rubber guard in MMA.

I wanted to start out talking about the use of grappling and submissions in MMA, seeing as you’re one of the few guys who actively tries to end fights that way. A lot of guys, when they hit the ground in the bottom position, seem to do one of two things. They either try to get up immediately or try to stabilize their position. “Getting to guard” seems like a reasonable idea, but a closed, inactive guard seems to be the position they move to.

I notice that you have a very dynamic guard, very active, making it extremely difficult for your opponents to establish a strong base or strike you effectively, do you think this is the key to countering wrestle-fucking?

Definitely, it feel like most of the BJJ guys have the mentality that they have to take the fight to the ground, which most of the time means get the takedown, and work from the top, but then when things don’t go their way and they end up on their back, they end up doing nothing but stalling… In my opinion the only way that you will be able to beat  a good wrestler and beat ‘the rules’ is if you are constantly looking for submission off your back.  Most of the wrestlers nowadays don’t even respect the majority of the BJJ guys, because they know the majority of them won’t even try to work on a submission while they’re on their backs.

You’re in the running for Submission of the Year at the 2011 Fighter’s Only World MMA Awards (you can vote for Vinny to win, here: for your spectacular win via gogoplata over Victor Nemkov, but the special thing about that fight in my opinion wasn’t just landing the gogoplata, it was dominating the grappling throughout the fight. When you were on your back, it was Nemkov who was in immediate danger nearly the entire time.

However, not all fights end in a decisive victory, some go to decision. It seems that wrestling and “being on top” is favored by most judges in North America at this point. As opposed to just jockeying for position, you seem to be very intent on threatening submissions at every opportunity, do you think that sort of dominance should score more points on the judges score cards if the fight goes the distance?

Well, It really depends, there was a fight where Miguel Torres was being really acitve while fighting from the bottom (can’t remember who he went against though), he ended up losing that fight on the judges score. To be honest with you, even though I’m a BJJ guy i also thought that he had lost that fight. In my opinion there are two ways of being active your back: 1- when you’re “trying” to go for something, but don’t get anywhere close to get it; 2- When you actually lock a submission and put your opponent in danger of getting tapped. In that fight what happened was Miguel trying to do stuff, but at no point he was close to get the finish, that’s why I thought the result was fair. So anwering your question, yes, submission attempts should definitely count as a factor on the score system, BUT ONLY if the move is fully locked, only if the other fighter was in real danger of getting tapped.

That’s a good point, just “being active” shouldn’t win fights…the equivalent in standup is spending the round dancing instead of fighting, sure you’re doing something, but it’s not the thing that will end the fight.

There’s an obvious difference in judging between North America and Japan, but what about North America and Russia?

I haven’t really paid attention to the judges in Russia, maybe because M-1 has a high finish rates…who knows, but the only couple decisions that i’ve seen in Russia, I saw the Russian judges giving the win for the Russian fighters whenever they fought a foreigner…so far that’s all i know about the Russian judging system.

Ok, shifting the focus back to technique for a moment, you rarely seem to threaten just one submission or “put all your eggs in one basket” there always seem to be several ways you can go, how important is it to chain submissions together in order to land one of them?

In my opinion it’s really important… from what I see, many MMA fighters that don’t have BJJ as their background barely focus on submission attacks, they mostly work on submission defenses, and also most of the time they only work on defending one move at a time. So by using a chain of submission, I feel like I might have a guy defending my submissions once, twice, possibly three times, but eventually they will get caught with something unexpectedly, especially when I pull something unorthodox  that they’re not so used to practice.

I think that’s a very important point. Even most casual fans understand that in order to land a knockout, it’s important to throw a combination of strikes, whereas it seems even some high level professional fighters lack the understanding that it’s essential to combine moves in grappling in order to land one of them. Forcing a submission on someone is like trying to throw only one punch and knock your opponent out right through his block.

Now, on to perhaps a slightly more contentious topic, you favor the use of the rubber guard. Many people criticize it (me being one of them in a rather obnoxious manner), but it obviously works for you and several others, do you think more people should use it?

I obviously like to use it, but it’s not what I use the most. I believe that what makes mine and other guys’ rubber guard so effective is the fact that all these other guys also have a solid BJJ/Grappling base. If I name a few, like George Sotiroupolos, Shinya Aoki, Matt Horwich, Myself, Demian Maia…you will agree that all these guys were already good grapplers before they were introduced to the 10th planet system, and by adding that system into their game, they just made themselves a little bit better…I don’t believe that people could only rely on rubber guard to win a fight on the ground, as I don’t believe that you could only rely on top game to win a fight on the ground. Even on the ground, you have to be well rounded.

That actually answers my follow-up question, my main criticism of the rubber guard is simply that basics are more important to focus on first, before adding high end advanced techniques.

In a general sense, what are some common mistakes you see guys making when the fight hits the ground and what would you suggest they do to overcome them?

As I said, lack of aggressiveness is a problem, I do feel like people should attempt more submission, if their skills allow them to do so. Another problem might be the fact that people are so worried about winning by the rules that once the fights are hitting the ground, people are either fighting for control, or for ground and pound, some guys aren’t being patient enough to work on submission, and I see that as a problem, after all not every punch will be a KO punch, and just work for control might not be always the best option especially when you end up going against somebody who has an aggressive guard.

If you had to name three guys who have influenced your technique that you have not trained with directly, who would they be?

I have actually trained with all the three guys that have influenced me the most: Demian Maia, Big Nog and Eric Paulson.

Mr. Paulson is one of the few guys in North America to have trained to a high level in both catch wrestling and BJJ, being a catch guy myself (for shame, for shame) I’ve always looked up to him. I think there are a few things for catch to offer, but no one should try and base their whole game off of catch.

If you could train with anyone, dead or alive, that you haven’t had the chance to train with, who would it be?

There’s nobody in special that I’d like to train with. I did train with/under some guys that a lot of people consider legends, such as Royler Gracie, Helio Gracie, Saulo Ribeiro in BJJ, Dan Henderson, Randy Couture, Big Nog, Wanderlei Silva, Vitor Belfot in MMA, so there’s nobody in special that I’d like to train with, since I have already trained with some of these guys.

That’s certainly an impressive list of instructors/training partners.

On a lighter note, do you actually wash laundry on those abs and what is your secret to being so ripped? I’m really hoping it’s a steroid I haven’t tried yet, because I refuse to do situps.

Well, I’m not as ripped as I used to be, but I guess those nice abs were results of wrong training. I used to put too much time into weight lifting and not that much into actual MMA training, and even though I was looking good phisically, I wasn’t looking so good while fighting… There was nothing specific that I was doing at that time to get those abs, other than a healthy diet and a lot of cardio and weight training. But then again, I kinda gave up on the abs, so I could become a better fighter… If that makes any sense… (laughs)

In fact, it really does. One of my former training partners shifted his conditioning exercises away from weightlifting and dramatically improved his performance.

If you had to grapple with Brock Lesnar for 5 mins, how many times would you tap him and what submissions would you use?

Well, he does have a lot of size on me, so it would be hard to predict how many time I’d submit him or even if I would submit him, but I’d definitely go after as many submissions as I could, and if we’re talking about full grappling, I think I’d eventually get him with something…

Size does matter, for sure, but my money would be on you in a grappling match, just saying.

What are your thoughts on Chael Sonnen?

Well, I really think he does that only to promote himself, nothing else. I did hear that he’s not a big fan of training BJJ, but he does grapple with BJJ guys, so no matter what he says, he does train BJJ, he might call it grappling, but it’s BJJ. As for him talking crap about BJJ and Brazilians, I just think it’s funny, I don’t take it as something offensive, but I think he should be careful sometimes with what he says, because brazilians have a different sense of humor, and sometimes they won’t take some of the stuff he says as a joke.

I guess I can say I’ve trained BJJ now, in that case…I mean, I’ve gone to open mats at BJJ schools and tapped a lot but I can’t say I ever learned any techniques (except brushing up on my tap reflex).

That’s also BJJ, at least you didn’t get your arms broken (laughs)

Thanks for your time, Vinny, I hope everyone remembers to vote for you for Submission of the Year.

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Jeremy Brand started up this lovechild called back in 2009. It began as a hobby project and has turned into much more. In his spare time, you can find Jeremy on the mats, as he is a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

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