World Series of Fighting surprised several observers when promotion officials announced the signing of welterweight veteran Rousimar Palhares in November, just one month after Palhares' unceremonious release from the UFC.
Although Palhares (15-5) is a unquestionably talented fighter, the notorious leglock specialist has dealt with more than a few controversies over the course of his eight-year career.
Along with a failed 2012 drug test for elevated levels of testosterone, Palhares received widespread criticism for several instances in which he failed to relinquish a damaging leglock submission, including a 2010 incident against Tomasz Drwal, which drew a 90-day suspension, followed by the 2013 incident against Mike Pierce, which led to Palhares' UFC release and initially caused doubt about whether any major organization would give him another chance.
"I was one of the first people that actually said the same thing, that I wasn't interested because, again, this is a sport and I don't want to see anybody get hurt badly or get paralyzed from that because of some silliness," WSOF President Ray Sefo said on Tuesday.
"But after listening to Renzo Gracie, who is a master of jiu-jitsu, and what he had to say about that particular incident, there's been discussions and dialogue going back and forth between our matchmaker and his team and (coach Antonio Rodrigo) Nogueira. Nogueira is giving us his word that he's actually sitting down with [Palhares] and helping him with this camp, and they're looking into getting him some help, as well. So all these things put together allowed me to look at it from a different perspective and talk to the team about it, and so we decided that we were going to sign him."
Sefo is thus far unsure regarding details for Palhares' upcoming WSOF debut, although he says it's "most likely" the Brazilian fights in March 2014 against an opponent yet to be determined. Notable options listed among WSOF's current welterweight roster include Josh Burkman, Jon Fitch, Gerald Harris and champion Steve Carl.
Yet regardless of his faith in Palhares' ability to put the past behind him, Sefo made it clear that this opportunity is for one chance, and one chance only.
"I will not tolerate any of that nonsense that happened before. If it happens again, he's gone," Sefo vowed.
"It would be silly for it to happen again, because I'm pretty sure if he does it here, then he won't have anywhere else to go. But again, Nogueira and the team have given us their word that things will be good from here on in, so we'll wait and see."