Former UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum said his fight with three-time title challenger Alexander Gustafsson at UFC on ESPN 14 is his last in the octagon.
Werdum told AG Fight (h/t BloodyElbow.com) there is “no possibility” of signing a new contract with the promotion after Saturday’s fight, which would end a relationship that’s stretched over two separate octagon stints, most recently an eight-year run marred by an anti-doping violation.
“We had a good relationship – sometimes there were some controversies, disagreements, things that happen in a normal relationship,” Werdum said. “I am very grateful to the UFC for all these years; I made my career practically in the UFC. I always wanted to enter the UFC, and they gave me that opportunity twice.”
“I was already fired and came back because I was pissed off,” Werdum added with a laugh. “But the cycle is over, the cycle has been good so far. Now I want to pursue my career a little more, and I want to do it my way.”
During a virtual media day in support of UFC on ESPN 14, Werdum answered questions in English with his native Portuguese and Spanish. The ex-champ said he didn’t feel like being there and wanted to focus on new training for his mind.
Werdum returned to the octagon in May at UFC 249 after serving a 10-month supension for a positive steroid test. He requested his release from the UFC, but instead provided “substantial assistance” to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency in return for a 14-month reduction in the two-year suspension originally recommended.
Werdum also served as a Spanish-language commentator for the UFC. He was briefly terminated after criticizing the promotion’s apparel deal with Reebok, but later reinstated after declaring himself a “company guy.”
Explaining his decision to move on, Werdum cited positive memories from high-profile fights, including his title win over Cain Velasquez in June 2015, as well as his conflicts with the promotion.
“We had fights, arguments, we didn’t agree on some things, I was fired,” Werdum said with a laugh. “But this has passed, this is already passed, now it is a all forward. I can only thank the UFC for all these years of victories.”
Werdum also regretted not fighting more often, wishing he could have competed as many as five times per year. His UFC on ESPN 14 appearance comes on the heels of back-to-back losses, including a split decision setback to Aleksei Oleinik in his previous outing and a knockout loss to Alexander Volkov prior to that.
Gustafsson’s name and reputation prompted Werdum to request him for his final opponent. The three-time title challenger is coming out of retirement after back-to-back losses against champ Jon Jones and Anthony Smith.
“I had a few options, and I chose Gustafsson because he is a well known guy who has a name in the MMA world ... and I wanted this fight to be important,” Werdum said. “I didn’t want it to be any fight, against a guy who’s just starting. And the most important thing is victory, doing a good performance. I want to go out the front door.”
As far as his next move, Werdum hopes to move back to his native Brazil – he currently resides in Southern California – and be more involved in the entertainment side of the fight business.
“I like television a lot, I’m not an embarrassed guy when a camera appears, I’m very natural and I really like it,” he said.
Werdum, a former ADCC champion, was a breakout star in PRIDE. After the Japanese promotion was acquired by UFC parent Zuffa, he made his way to the octagon and went 2-2 in the octagon, leaving the promotion after a knockout loss to future champ Junior Dos Santos. He subsequently signed with Strikeforce and arguably earned the biggest win of his career when he ended Fedor Emelianenko’s decade-long winning streak via first-round submission.
After a loss to Alistair Overeem in a heavyweight grand prix, Werdum re-signed with the UFC and racked up more high-profile wins. He won the title with a shocking win over Cain Velasquez at UFC 188, taking advantage of his additional time acclimatizing to tire out the champ and score a submission in the third round. In his first title defense, he was knocked out in the first round by current champ Stipe Miocic.