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Rodolfo Vieira talks first MMA win, lack of interest in going back to jiu-jitsu

Gabriel Srur/Santo Negro

Rodolfo Vieira entered a MMA cage for the first time on Feb. 11, and he made quick work of Daniyar Zarylbek.

The multiple-time jiu-jitsu world champion needed less than three minutes to get the takedown, get the mount, get Zarylbek’s back and end the contest with a rear-naked choke.

"It was exactly like I wanted,” Vieira, who headlined Arzalet Fighting 1 in Sao Paulo, Brazil, told MMA Fighting. "It’s hard to expect something because MMA is a new sport for me. I was confident, I trained hard and prepared for a long time at American Top Team, and my coaches gave me confidence. They kept telling me that I wasn’t obligated to get the submission or the knockout, that I had to go there and do my job. That’s how I prepared for this fight.

"I got this great win in my first fight. It was perfect, submitting him from his back. My first jiu-jitsu match, I finished (my opponent) from his back, and now I did it in my first MMA fight."

Vieira had to overcome a few injuries and infections during his six-month camp for the light heavyweight fight at American Top Team, and plans on cutting down to 185 pounds for his second MMA bout.

"Middleweight is the best weight class for me because they are bigger and stronger (at light heavyweight),” he said. "My goal is to cut down. I’ll fight at 185, even though some middleweights are bigger than me as well. I’m too short, that’s the truth [laughs]."

Vieira still has one fight left in his deal with Arzalet Fighting, but his contract allows him to compete for other promotions outside of Japan, and he’s currently negotiating with a promotion. Where he fights next will determine his weight class, Vieira explains.

"I can’t fight at 185 (at Arzalet) because they have this rule that you can’t gain more than five kilos (11 pounds) after making weight,” Vieira said, "so it doesn't make sense for me to cut down.”

The jiu-jitsu specialist plans on fighting again as soon as possible. Aiming to become a UFC champion in the future, the Rio de Janeiro native is not interested in competing in grappling anymore.

"Man, I really like jiu-jitsu, I love jiu-jitsu, but when I decided to go to MMA I was not motivated to continue competing in jiu-jitsu, and MMA was a dream I had,” Vieira said. "I’m happy now, starting something from zero. You have that thing of winning, achieving, winning money and status, like when I started in jiu-jitsu."

"I don’t see myself competing in jiu-jitsu anymore,” he continued. "If an opportunity presents itself, a super fight with someone tough and they pay me well, I could do it if I don’t have a MMA fight coming up. And it should be no gi since I’m already training without the go for MMA fights. But I don’t see myself competing at the IBJJF Worlds, which is the only tournament I entered anyway."

Vieira’s resume in jiu-jitsu includes five world championship as a black belt at IBJJF, an ADCC title, and several other gold medals around the world — and he did that in a short period of time.

"I stepped away from jiu-jitsu in 2014, when I was 25 years old and already had five world titles,” Vieira said. "I made friends, fans, people that admire me and care about me with jiu-jitsu. I hope I’m remembered for that and the way I fought.”

Even though he's focused full-time in MMA, Vieira won’t officially say he’s retired from the jiu jitsu.

"Many people say 'I’m retired,' but come back later,” he said. "People retire and un-retire five times in four years. I’d rather say I’m stepping away now. It’s really tough to train hard to fight nine or 10 times in one day to win… prestige? Thank God I don’t need that today anymore. I don’t think one or two world titles would make a big difference in my life."

After winning pretty much everything in the jiu-jitsu world, Vieira only misses one thing left: defeating Marcus “Buchecha" Almeida.

"I thing the only thing missing is beating ‘Buchecha' (laughs), but I don’t thing there’s not a title left,” said Vieira, who tapped “Buchecha" with an armbar in 2011, but lost by points the last five times they fought.

"The Brazilian national is the only title I didn't win, but European, Pan-American, IBJJF World Championship and the World Pro, I won weight and absolute in all of them. I had a pretty successful career."