The former UFC heavyweight champion re-entered the octagon after serving a suspension that kept him away from the octagon for more than two years. Add to that the fact he wasn’t able to train at Rafael Cordeiro’s Kings MMA gym in California, and you’ll understand why “Vai Cavalo” was disappointed with his performance.
Werdum knows he lost the first round pretty badly to Oleinik, but he feels he did enough to steal rounds two and three. Judge Derek Cleary was the only to see the bout that way, while Chris Lee and Barry Luxenberg scored the second round for the Russian heavyweight.
“I think that going to the mountains (in Big Bear Lake) is what saved me, because I got hit a lot, I felt a lot of the strikes to the head, got dizzy, and came back,” Werdum said with a laugh during a post-fight interview with MMA Fighting. “I wasn’t happy, of course. It’s horrible. No one’s happy with a loss.
“Even if I had won, I would be happy with the win, but not happy with my performance, you know? I know I can do more. I’m 42, but I know I can do a lot more. It’s the worst [feeling] when you know you can do more but couldn’t do it, especially because everything that happened, this whole situation (with the coronavirus pandemic).”
To make things worse during the three-round contest, Werdum revealed he thrice dislocated his little finger during the bout.
“People thought I was fixing my glove but no, I was putting my finger back in place,” he said. “It took a while for me to turn on. You could see that clearly. Oleinik has a lot of experience, [and] you can’t underestimate him. I always say there’s no easy fight in MMA. He surprised me in the beginning. I knew he would come that way, but his volume of strikes was very good.”
Cardio wasn’t a problem, Werdum said. Instead, the Brazilian felt that lack of sparring session and weight lifting, something he wasn’t able to do due to the COVID-19 outbreak, hurt his performance altogether.
His original strategy also was “completely different” than what he ended up doing against Oleinik, Werdum said.
“I was moving a lot in training, not letting him do his game, but I accepted it completely (in the fight),” he said. “I stopped, I choked hard. Get hit and do nothing? What?
“I showed I can take a punch, you have to do a lot to defeat me. I’ll never quit, say, ‘No more.’ You wanna take me out, you have to put me in a submission or knock me out, OK. But I’ll never stop fighting back. My heart was there, but I was in automatic [mode] in the first round. I was a bit off. It was a weird feeling of being back after a long time.”
Prior to the fight, “Vai Cavalo” said he thought Oleinik was more dangerous on the ground than every single grappler he faced previously in MMA. After sharing the cage with the American Top Team product for 15 minutes, he credits Oleinik’s strength for avoiding so many submission attempts in the final stanza.
The Brazilian veteran now vows to come back stronger next time he enters the octagon. He only has one bout left in his current deal with the UFC, and isn’t sure if the promotion will offer him another deal before he completes his contract.
“I’ll come back with everything to show I still have it,” Werdum said. “I have one more fight in my contract with the UFC. I don’t know if they want to re-sign, or [I’ll] go to another promotion. There’s a lot to happen still.”
“Many things change in life when you lose,” he continued. “Your life really changes. I’m in this [sport] for many years. This is what I love doing, but it really makes you think, reflect about many things: ‘Will I stop fighting, enjoy my family, or keep fighting?’
“I don’t think this loss erases everything I’ve done. No one talks about it, but I’m the only one with three titles: jiu-jitsu champion, [ADCC] champion, and UFC champion – the world’s most important [MMA] promotion. No one talks about it, but I know this title is very important.”