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Joao Paulo Rodrigues set to fight again a month after suffering two KO losses in 13 days

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Joao Paulo Rodrigues vs. Rony Jason (GC)
Joao Paulo Rodrigues holds wins over notable names like Renan Barao and Rony Jason.
Guilherme Cruz, MMA Fighting

In September, Joao Paulo Rodrigues suffered a pair of brutal knockouts in a span of 13 days. That still didn’t slow him down.

This weekend, the Brazilian featherweight vet will step into the cage again for a fight this against Krzysztof Gutowski at Babilon MMA 10 in Wieliczka, Poland.

Rodrigues is flying to Poland on Tuesday to compete on Saturday. He told MMA Fighting the bout was already booked before he was knocked out by Roman Ogulchanskiy on Sept. 29.

Gutowski is undefeated at 7-0 as a professional with all of his wins coming by way of knockout. Rodrigues (37-19-2) calls his opponent “a good match-up for me” and didn’t consider pulling the plug after his second knockout loss.

“I went to the doctor to have an MRI, and I’m feeling great, man,” Rodrigues said. “I’m feeling perfect. I was dealing with a knee injury in those fights; it wasn’t good. But I’m 100 percent now.”

Rodrigues, a father of three, usually works as a doorman in his native Natal. These days, he’s unemployed and claims he loses money teaching jiu-jitsu. But even if he didn’t have money issues, he’d still fight.

Rather than decide on his own to rest his body and brain, he relies on the advice of medical professionals.

“If the doctor said I wasn’t okay to fight, I wouldn’t do it,” said Rodriguez, who usually makes $145-245 dollars per fight in Brazil.

Rodrigues won’t disclose how much he’s getting paid by Babilon MMA. but he said it’s way better than his usual rate. When the promotion didn’t pay for his flight tickets, he said, he raffled off a fridge to pay for travel expenses.

Rodrigues claims a doctor cleared him to fight again one month after suffering his second knockout defeat in September. But Dr. Paolo Souto Maior, a neurologist and the medical director of the Brazilian MMA Athletic Commission (CABMMA), told MMA Fighting he shouldn’t be allowed to enter a cage anytime soon.

“One of the great dangers of getting knocked out again in a short time is the so-called second-impact syndrome,” Dr. Souto Maior said, “Where suffering a new head injury before recovering from the first knockout causes the brain to lose its ability to regulate cerebral blood circulation, which can lead to diffuse cerebral edema and can lead the fighter to coma and even death.”

In a situation like that, where a fighter loses by knockout, the Brazilian commission would automatically give him a 45- or 60-day medical suspension. According to the neurologist, “concussions are considered one of the most complex injuries in sports medicine to diagnose, evaluate and treat,” and Rodrigues should have “physical and mental rest for the brain to recover from the trauma suffered and thus avoid more serious (contact) in the future.”

Rodrigues doesn’t seem too concerned about it, though. Asked if he would still take a fight so soon if he wasn’t dealing with money problems, he simply said, “Absolutely.”

“My body is great,” Rodrigues said. “I think it was built for this. I like this. It’s in my blood. I don’t do it for the money, because I need it. I feel great. I love putting on a show for the fans.”

After Babilon MMA 10, Rodrigues is unbooked – for now.