Fabricio Werdum had a lot of options for his new fighting home after finishing his recent contract with the UFC.
The former heavyweight champion talked about possibly going to Bellator for a rematch with Fedor Emelianenko, who he defeated in 2010. Werdum also mentioned interest in adding another heavyweight title to his resume by traveling to Asia for a a second fight against ONE champion Brandon Vera, who he finished with strikes back in 2008.
In the end, Werdum didn’t take either of those options and instead inked a deal to join the roster at the PFL where he will compete in the upcoming 2021 season. While there were numerous factors that went into his decision, the 43-year-old veteran says that the PFL ultimately offered him a guarantee that no other promotion could give him.
“I looked at PFL ‘cause I know the season has a lot of fights in a year,” Werdum explained when speaking to MMA Fighting. “I like the idea of fighting maybe four times a year. PFL give the opportunity for this. Like one fight, then six weeks later, again. Six weeks again, fight again. I like the idea. Fight very soon.
“For sure, I saw PFL all the time and I know Ray Sefo. Ray Sefo has a lot of respect. You know why? Cause he was a fighter before. He is my friend. I like him and I like the respect, the honor that the guys have in the PFL.”
Werdum says he put his faith in his longtime manager Ali Abdelaziz to find him the best deal not only monetarily but also to appease his desire to compete as often as possible before he hangs up his gloves for good.
While he maintains a good relationship with former Strikeforce boss Scott Coker, now the president at Bellator MMA, Werdum felt like the PFL was the right place to call home at this stage of his career.
“It’s a business,” Werdum said. “Negotiations, you try very well, I know Ali did a good job. I know that. He said about the PFL, I said ‘Ali, I know the PFL, every time I look at the fights, I saw the fights, very good fights’ and when he said I know Ray Sefo, the president. Ray Sefo, I looked at him a long time ago when he fought K-1 versus Mark Hunt, I love this guy Ray Sefo. This is why I know the PFL have a good relationship with fighters. When Ali give me the options, I wanted to go to the PFL for sure.
“Now I’m 100 percent PFL, that’s it. I don’t think about different fights. My goal now is to be champ in the PFL.”
Staying active was obviously important to Werdum as he begins looking towards the final stages of his career. He’s not thinking about retiring any time soon but the Brazilian legend knows that he can’t fight forever.
“Maybe in 2021, maybe four or five fights a year. This is my dream and then I’m happy,” Werdum said. “I’m happy cause I think I fight two more years, maybe three, I don’t know. It’s so hard for fighters to stop the fight. It’s very hard for us. Imagine all [your] life same thing, fight, fight, fight, I love my life like this. Fight again, grappling, MMA, everything and then you stop. You love this but why do you have to stop? It’s so hard to us.
“I’m 43 years old but every time I say that, my mind is very young. This is very important.”
The final roster of heavyweights for the upcoming PFL season is still being determined but Werdum predicts he’s going to have a large target on his back as the most established fighter in the field.
There’s a big part of him that gets excited for that kind of opportunity, especially knowing that he’ll just get to focus on the fights in the PFL without needing to worry much about the promotion side of the business.
“I don’t like the trash talking too much,” Werdum confessed. “When my opponents say something, for sure I respond, I say something, too. I don’t start the trash talk. I think the best thing is you have to show inside the cage. This is the best part.
“I don’t go to the PFL just to fight again. No, I just go there cause I want to win the tournament. I want to take down the heavyweight division. I want to beat all the guys there and be a champion. One more belt in my wall, on my home, in my collection.”
If Werdum is successful in his bid to become the 2021 PFL champion, he will add yet another accolade to his resume where he’s already considered one of the greatest heavyweights of all-time.
It’s hard to imagine anyone making a list of the best heavyweights in MMA history without including Werdum but don’t expect him to be the one telling anybody that fact.
“It’s so hard for us, for me to say ‘oh I’m the best.’ I don’t like that,” Werdum said. “When the fans say ‘Werdum is the best all-time’ or ‘Werdum is a very good heavyweight champion’ I love this. I love when guys say this like, thank you. But I don’t like to say this in my mouth. It’s not my style. I believe I’m there, too, top-five in the world. For sure, top-five in the world. I don’t talk too much, I just show inside the cage.
“When the fans say that, I’m very happy, I say thank you, I appreciate it.”