Joao Zeferino was on his way to Colorado to go skiing on the mountains when he got a call from his manager, offering to replace Jake Shields against Jon Fitch for the vacant World Series of Fighting welterweight title on April 2, and he immediately changed plans.
The Brazilian fighter, a runner-up in the WSOF one-night, eight-man lightweight tournament last November, returns to 170 pounds for a chance to become the new champion at WSOF 30, and he knows what to expect from the fellow UFC veteran.
"He’s a good opponent," Zeferino told MMAFighting.com. "His game never changes, he does the same thing for 10 years. There’s no surprise about it, but he’s strong at that. There’s the positive and the negative sides about that. He’s a veteran, but I also have a lot of experience. I’m confident on the victory. He’s a good wrestler, but my wrestling is good, my jiu-jitsu is on point, and my striking is superior."
Fitch is 3-2 since leaving the UFC, and both of his losses have come by way of submission. Zeferino, who scored submissions in 15 of his 20 MMA victories, anticipates a quick night.
"Make a mistake and I’m tapping you, man," Zeferino said. "I can finish you on the ground or standing, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s over quickly. I’m a finisher. I’m also ready to fight five rounds if I have to, but I’m ready to finish him first.
"WSOF appreciates my work, they know that I go there to put on a show," he added. "I’m not there to lay and pray, I’m efficient in what I do. I don’t choose opponents. To prove that you’re the best, you have to fight the best."
Zeferino went 0-2 in the UFC in 2013, losing decisions to Elias Silverio and Rafael Natal. After leaving the promotion, the Brazilian scored seven straight finishes before losing to Brian Foster in the WSOF tournament final. Zeferino, who tapped Foster in the first round of the grand prix, feels he’s one of the bets in both divisions.
"Honestly, I feel I’m a contender at both welterweight and lightweight today, but beating Jon Fitch shows what I can do, for sure," he said. "The problem with the lightweight division is that it’s hard to cut weight, too much diet, but I feel fine there. My personal life is better when I’m fighting at 170, though. I train better, so I’ll keep it that way.
"The tournament I fought gave me even more experience. It was crazy. I waited for two hours before the first fight and the semifinal, and then only 10 minutes before the final, and they changed my opponent in the end. It was a great experience. That tournament made me a stronger man, a better fighter. It was great."