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BJJ star Rodolfo Vieira predicts he will be ready for the UFC by the end of 2018

Metamoris 2 Photos Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Four-time jiu-jitsu world champion and ADCC gold medalist Rodolfo Vieira returns to the cage Sunday night for his second MMA bout at Shooto Brazil 74, and feels better than ever.

In his debut earlier this year, the grappling phenom tapped Daniyar Zarylbek in under three minutes. With more time to evolve as a mixed martial artist, Vieira takes on short-notice replacement Fagner Rakchall (2-3) in Rio de Janeiro, and makes no secret about his game plan.

"I want to become a complete fighter, but for these first fights I will always go with my best weapon, my jiu-jitsu,” Vieira told MMA Fighting. "But I’m ready. If I can’t get him to the ground, I’m sure I will be ready to fight him standing as well. I worked hard in the gym, I have great coaches by my side."

Training at American Top Team in Florida, Vieira says the toughest part of going from jiu-jitsu mats to MMA cages is the transition between martial arts in the gym.

"I think I’m twice as better compared to my debut,” he said. "I trained really hard to evolve in the transition between different aspects of the game. To mix things up is the hardest part in my opinion. You can’t just be good standing and on the ground, you have to mix it up well. But I’m feeling way better than prior to my debut."

"I’m always nervous, always, especially now that I’m fighting in my hometown,” he continued. "My whole family and all my friends will be there to watch me. I’m always nervous, even before my jiu-jitsu matches, but I know how to control that and do what I trained when the fight starts."

After a flawless debut in Sao Paulo, Vieira return to Rio de Janeiro gunning for another stoppage victory.

"I believe I will submit him,” Vieira said. "Any finish would be perfect — it would be great if I was lucky to knock him out [laughs] —, but I want is the submission. Everyone there watching me, I believe they want me to take the guy down and catch him.”

According to Vieira, the plan is to continue competing at light heavyweight in his first four or five MMA bouts, getting used to the weight cut, before accepting a “doable" but “painful" cut to middleweight.

Focused on his career in mixed martial arts, Vieira rules out competing at the 2017 edition of ADCC in Finland or returning to IBJJF tournaments, unless he’s paid a good amount of money for a super fight.

Fighting MMA in Brazil for a second time, Vieira revealed that no American-based promotion has made a good offer for him yet. Russian MMA company Absolute Championship Berkut has reached out already, he said.

"ACB came with a really good offer, but we’re still thinking if it’s worthy,” Vieira said. "I’m still unexperienced, so signing with a big promotion right now, even if the money is good, is dangerous. I have to be careful with my career, especially in the beginning. My focus is to get to the UFC, where the best in the world are fighting. I know it’s a long and tough road and I have to be careful to avoid losses and screw up."

"That’s why I decided to train really hard before my first fight,” he continued, "because I knew that a few good wins could get me in the UFC before many other athletes because of all the history I build in jiu-jitsu. On the other side, I think that’s bad because sometimes it’s too premature. I think if I win five or six fights, I think by the end of the next year I’ll be ready to enter the UFC."

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