Eric Albarracin had a simple message to Stephan Bonnar when they stepped off a plane together in Rio de Janeiro in preparation for UFC 153 last week: "Whatever you do, don't piss off Anderson. Don't say anything about Brazil."
"That was the best strategy I could give him," said Albarracin, Silva's wrestling coach, who offered the reminder to Bonnar of how Chael Sonnen's opposite strategy of disperraging "The Spider's" home country didn't work out so well at UFC 148.
Bonnar, who is trying to pull off the biggest upset in MMA history tonight, joked back: "Please tell me he's hurt, or out of shape."
No such luck, but despite Albarracin's role in the opposite corner, he thinks the bulky American has a chance to make tonight's main event interesting.
"Ah yeah, he'll do better than Forrest Griffin," Albarracin said. "He's a big guy. That poses some adversity for Anderson. I think it's going to be real interesting to watch."
Albarracin has seen the "The American Psycho's" skills up close as the two were actually both helping former WWE star Dave Bautista train for his MMA debut down in Flordia.
"He was sparring with Dave, but you could tell the difference when he didn't have a fight and when he (knew) he was gonna fight Anderson," Albarracin said. "He definitely picked up the pace."
Albarracin — who has seven fighters out of the Team Nogueira camp fighting at UFC 153 — believes that all his clients are motivated for their respective bouts, but the elder statesman of the team, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, has as much on the line as any of them.
"He said he wants to go three more years, as long as he stays injury free, I think he can. I'm on board," Albarracin said of Nogueira, who fights Dave Herman in the co-main event.
"He's always trying to improve. He's trying to make his team the best in the world and we are on the way to doing that."
But Albarracin, a former captain in the U.S. Army, decided to provide an extra mental advantage for Nogueira — putting together a mix-track with songs combined with motivational comments from teammates as well as strategy.
"I actually got Anderson, Junior dos Santos and some of the other Team Nogueira fighters that he's motivated. I recorded their voice and they gave him positive reinforcement and expressed how he's a natural leader to them, he's their inspiration," said Albarracin, who started training with Nogueira right before the UFC's first return show to Rio in August of 2011.
"I put it together to some of his favorite songs and even the theme song of his favorite cartoon, ThunderCats while growing up. I threw in some Rocky themes and some other stuff to reiterate wrestling terminology that would stick in his head. He said he really liked it and it really helped him."
But just fighting in their native Brazil, the fourth UFC event in the country in the last two years, provides plenty of motivation, Albarracin says.
"The buzz is big. Anytime the UFC is in Rio, it's gonna be big. Any time "Minotauro" fights, anytime Anderson fight, people are going to watch," he said.