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BJJ ace Rodolfo Vieira details transition to MMA

Gallery Photo: Copa Podio photos Guilherme Cruz, MMA Fighting

Rodolfo Vieira’s long-awaited MMA debut is scheduled for Feb. 11 in Brazil. The decorated jiu-jitsu ace got used to getting beat up in the process.

Vieira will compete against Zarylbek Daniyar at Arzalet Fighting Globe Championship at the Mauro Pinheiro gymnasium in Sao Paulo, and the American Top Team product is happy to finally step inside the cage.

"It took a while,” Vieira told MMA Fighting. "I was scheduled to debut in October, but I had some problems and was forced to postpone it. When they moved it to Brazil, I got even more excited about it.”

The “problems” Vieira mentions was an infection. When battling the infection, Vieira also had to deal with an allergic reaction that kept him sidelined from training for 40 days.

The plus side? With his light heavyweight bout moved to February, Vieira had more time to evolve as a mixed martial artist.

"I’m training hard every day here,” he said. "Training boxing, wrestling, muay thai, and the transition to my jiu-jitsu. I’m sparring two or three times a week. I’m getting better. I’m getting more comfortable, and the fact that the fight was postponed will help me evolve and get there more prepared."

Vieira's plan is to cut down to middleweight after one or two MMA bouts.

"It’s my debut, so I don’t want an extra pressure of having to cut more weight, all that tension, the diet,” Vieira said. "I think it would be a torture to focus on that now. I’ll go at 205 pounds now. I’m feeling fine, strong. It’s a good weight for me. It won't be too much.”

Finding Vieira an opponent proved to be a hard task. Not many fighters wanted to get inside a cage with a four-time jiu-jitsu world champion and ADCC gold medalist, but Vieira doesn't think his BJJ resume should scare other MMA newcomers.

"I’m a jiu-jitsu champion. It’s completely different,” he said. "I’m a beginner in MMA."

Training at American Top Team for over six months, Vieira is still learning the art of striking — and the process involved getting beat up every single day.

"I’ve evolved a lot here at ATT,” Vieira said. "Kelson (Pinto) has helped me a lot with my boxing. Katel (Kubis) also helped training Muay Thai. That’s where I have more trouble working on. I had no confidence in striking, my timing. I’m training everything here, but I’m focusing on my striking most of the time.”

Vieira's first weeks at ATT were so tough, he nearly broke down.

"I cried in the gym once,” Vieira said. "I thought I didn't train well. Katel said ‘what happened? You did well,’ but I thought I didn’t do that well. I got desperate. I was so tired, I sat on the mat and started crying. The guy that I sparred with came to me and I thanked him. I don't know what happened. I was so desperate. ‘F*ck, I can’t do anything.’ I only took him down once, and he got right back up. That was the worst day for me.

"It was horrible,” he continued. "Everybody here is so experienced. When I was lucky enough to get the takedown, it was a good sparring session for me. But when I couldn’t secure the takedown, I’d just get beat up and get exhausted. But I knew it would have to go through this. I’m more confident standing now, I’m more conscious about what I have to do, throwing strikes, and I don’t get scared when I get punched and kicked. I’m getting better."

One of Vieira’s main sparring partners is UFC fighter Santiago Ponzinibbio, who is helping him adapt to mixed martial arts.

"They are way more experienced than me, but I always demand a lot from myself,” Vieira said. "That's good and bad. I’m not in a hurry. It’s constant evolution. they praise me a lot, and I know it will take time. I’m training hard every day, and I know I’ll be good one day.

"I was used to getting in the gym and training well with everybody, submitting everyone, and it’s different now,” he continued. "I get beat up. Sometimes I try to take someone down and can’t. But I got used to it. I was already used to getting pressured in the jiu-jitsu gym, too, so I have a good mindset. Getting beat up in training, not training well, that won’t put me down. I know training is different from fighting. I won't give up."

Looking for his first MMA win, the Rio de Janeiro native already knows what he wants to achieve in the sport.

"My dream is to fight in the UFC and become champion,” Vieira said. "I don’t want to get there just to say I’m a UFC fighter. When I get there, I want to be the champion. But I’m not in a hurry. It will take some time. I will get some fights out there, make some money, get experience, so when I get to the UFC, I’m ready.

"Maybe in five or six years I’ll be there fighting of the title, or being a top contender. I don’t know. That’s what I work for."

Arzalet Fighting Globe Championship's card will also feature Ildemar Alcantara, Jorge Patino "Macaco", BJJ ace Ary Farias and more. Check the current fight card below.

Rodolfo Vieira vs. Zarylbek Daniyar
Ildemar Alcantara x Markus Perez
Jorge Patino "Macaco" x Andrew Fisher
Gustavo Wurlitzer x Nemat Abdrashitov
Carlos Toyota x Zamirbek Syrgabaev
Marcos Satoshi x TBA
Ary Farias x Baraca Ernie
Dmitriy Parubchenko x Hosing Daisuke
Vladislav Parubchenko x Ashida Takahiro

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