The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu art form has produced some of the best mixed martial arts fighters since the sports inception with tales of Rickson Gracie treating black belts like infants while forcing them to submit still echoing in gyms to this day.
Now almost all the top-ranked grapplers have crossed over to apply their craft inside an MMA fighting circle, whether it’s in a dingy 2,000 seat building in the middle of nowhere or under the bright lights of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Vinny Magalhaes is widely regarded as one of the finest grapplers in the game today. A second degree black belt in the art he finally captured an Abu Dhabi Combat Club gold medal last year and holds wins over well-travelled and respected grapplers like Fabricio Werdum, Robert Dysdale, Roy Nelson and Glover Teixieria.
While his glory on the grappling mats is unquestionable, his luck inside the UFC’s Octagon isn’t the same.
The Brazilian got his break into the big-show on the reality series The Ultimate Fighter at just 24-years-of-age. Training under two-time UFC titlist Frank Mir he would make it to the finals before being overpowered and out-wrestled by Ryan Bader.
Walking to the cage for the second time without a prior win under your belt is always a pressure-packed situation and Magalhaes once again failed to impress losing to Elliot Marshall which subsequently forced his exit from the organization.
As we have passed a little over three years since his departure he returns a more mature, well-rounded fighter than the guy who urinated on Efrain Escudero’s bed. Away from the big stage he has a 7-1 record and held the M-1 Global light-heavyweight crown.
One hurdle that he will have to overcome in Toronto, Ontario, Canada is the issue of ring rust – Magalhaes hasn’t competed since he knocked out Sambo gold medallist Mikhail Zayats, over 13 months ago.
“Not really [do I think it will be a problem], to be honest with you the time off was off fighting but I have been training so I’ve had the time to make myself better. People are going to expect me to be just as good or bad as I was in my last fights but I’m going to be a different fighter because I’ve had all this time to work on the rest of the game.”
Right now the UFC are the only game in town, with every major promotion of note falling at the feet of the UFC brass staying employed in his second hurrah is top priority. Ultimately, this led to him stepping down from his position as head coach for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at Xtreme Couture.
“I actually quit my job at Xtreme Couture so I can just focus on full-time training now. I still train there, I am just no longer working as an instructor there,” he says “I don’t want to be spending nine hours at the gym training and teaching so I’m just going to focus on what I want to do most which is fighting.”
Usually if someone returns to a work force the colleagues welcome you back with joy, maybe even throw you an after-hours party. For Vinny, he gets to meet a six-foot Croatian knockout artist in Igor Pokrajac inside an eight-sided fighting circle.
“I think Igor [Pokrajac] is one of the toughest guys in the division. His takedown defense isn’t great with guys like Stephan Bonnar whose not a great wrestler taken him down over and over again but he sure is a tough guy and real well-rounded.”
While Vinny Magalhaes V 2.0 is here to show off his new found abilities and advancements in wrestling and striking, his grappling remains his bread-and-butter.
“I see a submission, first, second, maybe third round. He is pretty good at standing but one thing I tell people ‘No matter how much better the other guy is at striking he can leave openings to get taken down striking’,”
“In his last fight [against Fabio Maldonado] they were throwing bombs at each other and they didn’t get dropped so punches aren’t all going to land and every one isn’t going to be a knockout but once somebody gets you in a submission either your going to tap or go to sleep or get something broken”
To listen to the entire interview, along with discussions with UFC flyweight title challenger Demetrious Johnson and well-traveled freelancer E.Spencer.Keyte here.
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