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MMA, boxing, bare knuckle… anything: Fabio Maldonado open to all forms of violence if money is right

Fabio Maldonado meets light heavyweight champion Jiri Prochazka at Rizin 19.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Fabio Maldonado makes his Rizin debut at Saturday’s show in Osaka in a catchweight contest with light heavyweight champion Jiri Prochazka. The Brazilian brawler is excited to compete in Japanese soil for the first time even if the Rizin belt is not on the line, but likes to keep his future open in multiple fronts.

A former Fight Nights Global titleholder, Maldonado has been active in both mixed martial arts and boxing since leaving the UFC in 2015. With bare-knuckle boxing surging as a new player in the market for MMA fighters, Maldonado only has one demand: good money.

According to Maldonado, top kickboxing promotion Glory has reached out in the past, shortly after his controversial bout with Fedor Emelianenko, offering him a shot at heavyweight champion Rico Verhoeven, but he felt the money wouldn’t justify him making the jump to a new sport to face such a high-level opponent. Bare Knuckle FC offered him $25,000 to face heavyweight boxer Jason Gavern, Maldonado says, but again he felt the pay wasn’t enough.

“You know what the issue is with these (bare-knuckle) events? They have to pay you well,” Maldonado said. “If they want all this violence, they have to pay you well. It’s easy for you to injure your hand and cut your face open. They want to pay you less money with the argument that it’s a short fight, two-minute rounds. So what? I’ve seen the damage it does.”

If money is right, Maldonado will enter any ring or cage to “fight everybody, from A to Z.”

To prove his point, Maldonado took a fight with Prochazka on four weeks’ notice at Rizin 19. The Brazilian, who now fights full-time at heavyweight but hasn’t entered a MMA cage since 2018, had to cut more than 40 pounds to face the Czech fighter in Japan. However, wouldn’t shy away from challenging someone who’s on an eight-fight winning streak with seven knockouts.

“He has been knocked out before, but he’s on a roll,” Maldonado said. “He throws some dangerous punches, some good leg kicks as well, some knees to the body. He’s a complete fighter. If we turn this into a bar fight, that’s where I have the advantage. That’s how I knock him out.”

Maldonado has only signed a one-fight deal with Rizin, and doesn’t know what the future will bring after Saturday.

“Man, if they offer a good contract with good money, that would be good,” he said. “I’m open to fighting for them again, I’m open to boxing. Signing a longterm deal with them, the new Pride, would be a pleasure for me. If they are happy with the fight and want me to fight again there for good money, I’m in.

“I’m open to fighting anything, even this bare-knuckle boxing thing. I’d even fight MMA with no gloves.”

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