An overweight teenager who hated fighting decided to join a boxing gym to lose weight, and he had no idea that one day he’d become the newest addition to the UFC heavyweight division.
Born in Feira de Santana, Bahia in 1995, Carlos Felipe was bullied throughout school as a child for being fat. At age 14, he weighed 346 pounds. Felipe was morbidly obese and his family tried everything, but nothing helped him lose weight.
"When I was a little kid, my family took me to nutritionists, endocrinologists, but I didn’t help myself,” Felipe says. "They could take me to the best doctors, but that wouldn’t be enough. I wouldn’t lose weight because I had no willpower.”
Despite his issues, Felipe never would stand down when bullied by his classmates, so he was constantly in trouble for fighting in school. Someone eventually suggested boxing as a way to lose weight, but his mother was against the idea.
“The kids were always bullying me because I was fat and I always fired back, always found a way to respond,” Felipe says. "My mother didn’t want to sign me up in a boxing gym because she thought I’d fight even more, but I insisted. I relaxed and stopped fighting after that.
"I started boxing as a physical activity, to lose weight. Actually, as surprising as it might sound, I didn’t even like fighting."
After trying many different ways to lose weight, various diets and supplements, Felipe says boxing finally helped him drop from 346 pounds to 275 in 12 months. He gained so much confidence that he even started running to the gym every day, training, then running back home.
Five miles a day, plus two hours of boxing.
A few years later, watching Anderson Silva kick Vitor Belfort in the face at UFC 126, something clicked.
"I felt the desire to fight for the first time watching Belfort against Anderson Silva, the fight of the century,” Felipe says. "That’s when I felt in love with the sport. I decided I wanted to become a MMA fighter, and here I am today."
Two weeks before his last fight in Brazil, Felipe posted a prediction on his Instagram page: "I'm not a future teller, but I preview this: in May 20th, I will kick my opponent's ass, take my belt... a couple of days later, (UFC matchmaker Mick Maynard) will call (my manager Leo Pateira) and we will kick some ass in the UFC."
He was right. Twelve days after improving to 8-0 in the sport with six knockouts, Felipe announced to the world that he had signed with the UFC.
"It was a mix of emotions,” he recalls. "Joy, happiness, and knowing that I got the job done and have the chance now to fulfill my dreams. I already expected it, I knew it would happen sooner or later. I thought it would take a little longer, but I believed even when no one else did.”
When you watch Felipe compete, it’s hard to believe he was a shy kid getting bullied in the school. He’s a completely different person now in the cage. When he’s face to face with his opponent, Felipe is a true fighter.
In one of his most recent bouts, the heavyweight wasted no time flipping the bird during the actual fight.
"When I was younger, I was shy and anxious, so acting like this gave me more confidence and made me less anxious during the fight,” Felipe explains. “And if this is one of the reasons that brought me to the UFC, there’s no reason to change. This style was one of the definitive factors because there’s no one like this in the heavyweight division, this trash talk. There was no one else like this, but now there is."
The UFC has yet to announce when Felipe will make his Octagon debut, but the undefeated Brazilian already has an opponent in sight.
"I’d like to fight Rashad Coulter, the one that fought Chase Sherman (at UFC 211),” Felipe says. "We have a history. We were supposed to fight at LFA but it didn’t happen, so I want to fight him because of that."
Coulter earned the “Fight of the Night” bonus after losing via second-round knockout to Sherman at UFC 211, and also gained Felipe’s respect.
"He surprised me because he showed how big his heart is, he can take a beating,” Felipe says. "I didn’t expect him to be so brave. That only made me want to fight him even more."
After the compliments, Felipe fired his shot.
"He’d go down sooner against me, no doubt.”