RIO DE JANEIRO -- Luciano Azevedo is here to serve and protect.
At 32, the only man to ever defeat UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo now lives to fight crime in one of Rio de Janeiro’s most dangerous slums, and he enjoys being a police officer.
"I never imagined I’d like so much to work as a police officer," Azevedo told MMAFighting.com during his lunch break at ‘Jacarezinho’, the favela where he works. "It’s good not only for the money, but I’m able to help the community. I have a family, and I saw myself at 30 years old and didn’t get where I wanted, so I was getting frustrated."
After eight years as a professional mixed martial artist and a 16-9-1 record, Luciano was surprised that his family wasn’t afraid when he announced he decided to be a cop.
"I thought my parents would be against it, but they supported me a lot," he said. "When I had a fight my mother was always nervous, lighting candles and praying, and now they only get nervous."
Getting inside a ring to fight guys like Jose Aldo and Hayato Sakurai isn’t easy, and that’s why Azevedo didn’t fear his early days as a cop.
"It’s tough, you saw how the community is," he said, while holding his 5.56 rifle. "I work twice a week in a 24-hour shift, but you get used to that. The police are here in the community, but we know that there are still a lot of drug dealers living here. People ask for your help to solve everything. We have work to do 24-7, the favela never sleeps."
Sometimes the same people they help are the ones that turn their backs on them.
"When you approach someone to investigate and nobody cares, you know he is innocent; if you approach someone and everybody gets closer, you know they are involved with something wrong," he explains. "They try to protect the drug dealers because they always give something back to the community."
Azevedo has worked in the police department for 19 months, and he never had to use his gun. He wanted to, but couldn’t.
"They (criminals) shoot at us then hide, and you can’t just fire back because you can hit someone innocent," he explains. "My car has been shot already, but they never shot me. It’s good that I never had to use my gun, but sometimes you get pissed because you can’t shoot back at someone that is shooting at you."
The last time Luciano stepped in a cage was in 2011, when he fought to a draw against Diego Alves at WFE Platinum 9 in Bahia, Brazil. The only chance he fights again is if he becomes a policeman at BOPE, the same elite police unit where UFC’s Paulo Thiago works.
"BOPE is where every cop wants to be, and the better part is they would give me three months off to train if I get a MMA fight," he said. "I’m going to be honest with you: where I am today, I can’t fight anymore. The most I can do is train to stay in shape."
Every time Jose Aldo fights in the UFC, Azevedo has to answer a bunch of questions. And most of the people that ask him questions are police officers.
"They are very proud, they always ask about that fight, saying that they are proud of having me as a colleague," he said. "When Aldo fights, it is like I’m fighting too. But I don’t like to talk about that because people may think I’m trying to make myself over his name."
If he’s used to answering those questions, I had too as well. How does it feel like being the only one to defeat one of the best pound for pound fighters today?
"It’s nice," he said with a smile. "He wasn’t much different from what he is today, to tell you the truth. He was as dangerous as he is today, with strong kicks and heavy hands. So I did what I had to do, took him down and worked there. It was tough, but I knew I would be fine if I had taken him down. No disrespect to Aldo, but I had tougher fights. Who won that fight was supposed to have big opportunities, but MMA wasn’t big at that time so it got me nothing."
"I knew 'The Korean Zombie' wouldn’t offer too much danger for Aldo, so he would eventually finish him," he says, picking lightweights Anthony Pettis and Ben Henderson as the only threats to the featherweight champion's perfect record in the UFC. "If they ever fight in the same weight, I believe Pettis or Henderson are the guys that could maybe defeat him. And there would be no favorites in those fights."