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Bruno Malfacine returns against Cristian Rodriguez Jr. at Brave 16

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Bruno Malfacine is a 10-time world champion in jiu-jitsu.
Photo courtesy of Brave CF

Bruno Malfacine has a date and an opponent set for his return to mixed martial arts. A 10-time world champion as a black belt in jiu-jitsu, Malfacine is slated to meet Cristian Rodriguez Jr. at Brave 16 in Abu Dhabi, UAE, on Sept 21, sources told MMA Fighting.

Brave 16 will be headlined by a pair of championship bouts, with Carlson Harris vs. Jarrah Hussein Al-Silawi for the welterweight title and Elias Boudegzdame vs. Bubba Jenkins for the featherweight belt.

Rodriguez Jr. holds a professional record of 3-1 with all of his wins coming by way of first-round submission.

One of the greatest grapplers of all-time and a black belt under the legendary Fabio Gurgel, Malfacine won nine world championships before deciding to make the move to MMA in 2017. The BJJ wizard won back-to-back fights by first-round submission, and then returned to the jiu-jitsu mat to capture another IBJJF world title earlier this year.

In a recent interview with MMA Fighting, Malfacine said he expected his last opponent, 5-2 flyweight Rafael Vinicius, to be his biggest challenge so far in MMA, but still managed to win in less than four minutes.

”I’m not where I want to be yet, I have to evolve, but I’m more comfortable standing,” Malfacine said. ”I trained a lot more than for my debut with striking coach Sergio Cunha, master Ricardo Liborio, and I knew I would do better in this fight. I knew I would submit him in the first round. I didn’t know how, but I knew it wouldn’t get past the first.”

Knowing that a fight would be over quickly is not him being cocky, Malfacine explains.

”At this level, I think that if I can close the distance, I’m sure I will take my opponent down and submit him,” he said. “My level in wrestling is good, and I feel so comfortable on the ground that I don’t miss any chances. The first opportunity I have, I will submit them.”

Malfacine has been training jiu-jitsu and grappling for two decades, but making the transition to a new sport brings new challenges. At Brave 11, Malfacine admits he made a technical mistake.

”I’ve been grappling for 20 years, I do it every day, and I made a technical mistake on the ground,” Malfacine said. “I started the position wrong, attacked the wrong arm, but still managed to submit. I don’t believe there’s anyone as technical as me. My wrestling is getting better, and when my striking is where I want it to be, no one can stop me. It’s all going according to the plan.

”At this level I will submit everyone, no doubt about it. But I don’t want to be remembered as the jiu-jitsu only guy. I don’t want to lose my roots, but I want to have good wrestling and striking, be versatile.”

Malfacine constantly repeats he can quickly finish anyone he faces “at this level,” but he’s still only 2-0 in MMA. Surrounded by experienced coaches like Gurgel, Liborio and Cunha, Malfacine guarantees he won’t move up the ladder too fast.

”I feel that my experience in jiu-jitsu has helped me a lot,” Malfacine said. “I was very comfortable and confident even if my opponent had a bigger record in MMA. I feel I can fight someone with better records, but I have to me smart. I’m following my coaches’ advice, I have to respect them. I’m in no rush to go to this or that promotion now. It will happen when time is right. I just want to evolve as an athlete.

”I wanted to become champion in jiu-jitsu, and then I wanted to become the best and make history. I didn’t leave a sport where I was the best to be top three in another sport. I want to be the best.”

”I’m in no rush to sign with the UFC,” he continued. “It’s my goal to get there, but I don’t want to go in there, fight once and leave. I want to be ready to make history. This division is still new, they need new athletes, so it would make this process easier, but I want to earn it. It will happen.”