Rousimar Palhares has left devastation in his wake in the United States.
Torn knees, gouged eyes, wrenched shoulders. Palhares is perhaps the most controversial athlete in mixed martial arts stemming from what he has done inside the cage.
Palhares was cut by the UFC for holding onto submissions too long in 2013. The Nevada Athletic Commission suspended him for two years back in October for that same infraction because he held onto a kimura after the referee attempted to stop the fight in a win over Jake Shields last August.
Unable to fight in the United States due to the NAC ban, Palhares has ventured out to Europe, signing with fledgling Italian promotion Venator FC.
Once that deal was done, Palhares needed an opponent. Emil Weber Meek raised his hand.
"I heard rumors that they had Palhares and nobody wants to fight him," Weber Meek told MMA Fighting. "I'm like, 'Hey, you have Palhares in my weight class? Of course I want to fight him.' I kind of asked for it."
Weber Meek got his wish. The Norway native will face Palhares in the main event of Venator FC 3 on Saturday in Milan. The promotion's welterweight title will be on the line.
It's understandable why some would not want to fight Palhares. If he grabs onto a limb and his opponent taps, he's liable to continue cranking. The injury sustained could put a fighter out for a long time. Palhares did that to Mike Pierce with a heel hook in 2013 and the UFC cut him. Palhares was previously suspended in New Jersey for a similar infraction against Tomasz Drwal.
The risk of devastating injury is not a worry for Weber Meek, he said.
"I don't think you can look at it that way," Weber Meek said. "I think you have to look at the opportunity ahead of you. He's a top-level guy and I want to fight top-level guys. I want to be one of the best and to be one of the best, you have to beat one of the best. He's the highest-ranked fighter outside of the UFC in the world. So what more can I ask for?"
Indeed. Palhares might be a scourge to regulatory bodies, but he's also very good -- legitimately one of the best 170-pounders in the world. Weber Meek (7-2-1, 1 NC) sees this fight as his path to the UFC and beyond. A win over Palhares would put him in rare company. And getting a fight with such a big name is difficult for someone who lives in a country where MMA isn't even legal.
"There's no down side to fighting him," Weber Meek said. "This is the biggest opportunity I've ever had. To get to where I'm gonna be if I beat him compared to what I have to do to get there without fighting him, then I have to fight like a dozen more guys and I have to win in the first round with super highlight knockouts. I have to do a lot of stuff to get to where I can be after I beat him. I wouldn't say it's a shortcut, because this is a hard one. But this is a big jump for me if I pull this off. I can't see why I wouldn't pull this off."
Weber Meek, 27, isn't a fan of Palhares and his antics. But he's also not one to judge. The Oslo resident thinks promotions should pull the Brazilian's fight purse if he holds onto submissions too long. Maybe hitting him in the wallet would be a solution, Weber Meek suggested.
Indiscretions aside, Weber Meek won't complain about Palhares having the ability to fight this weekend in Italy.
"It's not up for me to say if he can fight or not," Weber Meek said. "I just want to fight him. That's all I know. If he shows up in that cage on the 21st of May, then I'm satisfied. Other than that, it's not up to me."
Weber Meek started training in MMA at age 21 after stumbling upon The Ultimate Fighter online. He found a gym in Oslo and became consumed with it, even though there isn't much of a mixed martial arts culture in Norway. Weber Meek told everyone back then that he wanted to be good enough to either have his own gym or make it to the UFC.
Well, Weber Meek already has his own gym. He's shooting for the other goal now.
"Hopefully after this fight," Weber Meek said, "I'll be in the UFC, too."