Pocketing a million-dollar check at Professional Fighters League wouldn’t only change Francimar Barroso’s life forever, but also help dozens of kids in Acre, Brazil.
“Bodao” opened his own martial arts gym in Rio Branco in 2016, back when he still was a light heavyweight fighter in the UFC. Unbeaten as a heavyweight inside the PFL cage after getting released by Zuffa in 2018, Barroso is three wins away from winning this year’s PFL season, and knows how crucial that money would be.
“I can’t be a hypocrite and say that this money doesn’t affect me [laughs],” Barroso told MMA Fighting. “I started training when I was 9, made my Vale Tudo debut at 17, so I’ve been working for a long time for a life-changing opportunity like this. It would not only change my life but my family’s and everyone around me.”
Barroso started helping 15 kids when he opened his MMA gym in 2016, and 10 of those are already competing in professional MMA fights. Win or lose, “Bodao” will invite 15 other kids to his project in 2020.
“I’m 39 now, I’ve been fighting for a long time, and you have to build something for the future,” Barroso said. “I still have plenty of fighting in me, I still have wood to burn, but I believe this prize would make my life better. I can complete my business in Brazil and here in the United States.”
Undefeated as a heavyweight after going 4-4 with one no-contest at 205 pounds between 2013 and 2018 in the UFC, “Bodao” credits his success for the lack of weight cutting.
“I was tired of cutting weight. I’ve been saying for years,” Barroso said. “It’s horrible not only for your body, but also for your mind. The last two weeks of camp you don’t think about the fight, you only think about the weight cut. And I didn’t even cut much weight. I used to cut 33 pounds, which isn’t much for a light heavyweight, but that made me feel bad.
“My life changed when I moved up to heavyweight. I’m a happy man now. I joke around two days before the fight. How would I do that in the past? I would only worry about my weight cut. I wouldn’t even think about the fight.”
Barroso enters the cage at Thursday night’s PFL 9 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center for a rematch with Alex Nicholson, whom he beat via split decision in June. The Brazilian heavyweight doesn’t think Nicholson has become a different fighter four months later, and promises to be ready for a busy night in Las Vegas.
If victorious against Nicholson, “Bodao” will return to the cage later that night against the winner of Mo De’Reese vs. Jared Rosholt, who meet in another quarterfinal bout. Whoever emerges from that side of the bracket will collide with the winner of Denis Goltsov-Satoshi Ishii vs. Kelvin Tiller-Ali Isaev, that also goes down on Thursday, on a Dec. 31 card in New York.
“Sometimes you go out for a quick finish but make mistakes you normally wouldn’t if you weren’t worried about the second fight,” Barroso said. “I don’t want to worry too much about the second fight, not even about a knockout. Anything can happen in there. I’m training to knock him out in the first round and be fresh for the second fight, but I’m willing to brawl and get destroyed if that’s what it takes to win. I don’t care about the second fight.”