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WSOF champ Rousimar Palhares on Jon Fitch: ‘I want to win so bad I just don’t care about the belt’


Five months after the original date, Rousimar Palhares and Jon Fitch will meet for good inside the World Series of Fighting cage Saturday night in California, as "Toquinho" was finally able to focus 100 percent on fighting again.

Palhares asked to withdraw from his first title defense in July, when he was expected to meet Fitch in the main event of WSOF 11, to take care of his mother, who was hospitalized and underwent surgery for extreme thrombosis in her legs.

Back then, Fitch criticized Palhares’ decision to pull out from a MMA fight to take care of his family.

"I wish Palhares would have manned up and showed up to fight," Fitch said at a press conference in June. "We all have problems. My dad’s sick too. He’s going to have a heart procedure the week of the fight. … He’s the titleholder. You have a responsibility as a titleholder to defend your damn title. It’s unprofessional. I hope his mom is well. I wish him the best and I’ll pray for him, but you do your job. We’re professionals. You do your job."

Palhares ignored Fitch’s advice and kept on looking for his mother’s health. It paid off, as she’s already back home.

"We couldn’t fight before because of what happened, but everything is fine now, thank God," Palhares told "Everything will be fine. She’s strong, thanks God. She’s out of danger."

"And I hope Jon Fitch’s father is fine, too," he added, "so we can do a great fight Saturday."

As soon as his mother was cleared, "Toquinho" returned to Rio de Janeiro to start his training camp at Team Nogueira, and he expects his mother to watch his fight on TV Saturday night.

"She will watch the fight," he said. "She always tells me she watches me fighting, but I don’t know if it’s true [laughs]."

Coming off quick first-round finishes since cutting down to 170 pounds, Palhares expects Fitch to do what he always does. But what if Fitch completely changes his style for WSOF 16? "Toquinho" says he will be ready.

"I trained for every aspect of the fight because we don’t know how it’s going to be," Palhares said. "Many people envision the fight going many different ways, so my coaches and I worked hard in every area to be ready for everything. Many people think he won’t take me down because of my fighting style, but we won’t know until we get in that cage and fight. What I know if that I’m ready to fight."

The Brazilian leglock master tapped Steve Carl and Mike Pierce with heel hooks in his past appearances in the UFC and WSOF, and he doesn’t rely only on his submissions to defend his WSOF belt.

"I don’t know how, but I know I’m going to win," Palhares said. "I don’t care what he’s going to do, I’m just focused on what I want to do. I want to bring all my training to the cage. I know what he’s good at, but I will do my best. I’m going there to submit him."

"I have other strategies, too," he continued. "I’ve worked hard in my stand up game and I’m getting better every day, confident that I can face any opponent and get my first knockout victory."

In fact, defending his title is not what drives him to beat his fellow UFC veteran.

"My motivation is to do what I love. That’s what drives me every second," "Toquinho" said. "I want to win so bad I just don’t care about the belt."

After facing many adversities inside the outside the cage, like his mother's disease and his UFC release in 2013, Palhares feels "different" going into his first WSOF title defense.

"I’m a different Rousimar Palhares now. I’m more mature," he said. "I learned from the difficulties I’ve faced in the past. If I had to go through everything I’ve been to become who I am today, I would do it all over’s going to be hard to take my belt away from me."

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