Gleison Tibau found a way to get paid as a coach for nine months during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic in Germany. Not only that, the longtime UFC veteran entered the cage and won a one-night MMA tournament that isn’t listed on his official record.
Speaking with MMA Fighting ahead of his PFL debut on Thursday, when he faces fellow Brazilian Joao Zeferino at PFL 2 in Atlantic City, N.J., Tibau said he was asked to be part of the “Maximum Bloodsport Tournament,” an MMA grand prix created by German rapper KC Rebell for his music video Anani Bacini, which has been watched by nearly two million people since October 2020.
Tibau fought twice that night, submitting Eluther Igel (3-1) with a rear-naked choke in round one and then winning a decision against Konrad Dyrschka (11-2, 1 no contest). Dyrschka defeated Samir El-Atiki (0-1) in the other semifinal, but the method is unclear. Tibau doesn’t recall the exact date for the event, but says it happened “six or seven months ago.”
“A rap group wanted to do a music video and decided to do a four-man tournament with two fights on the same night, and they wanted real fights,” Tibau said in an interview with MMA Fighting.
Tibau was offered the spot on three days’ notice and cut 13 pounds to make the welterweight limit for the unsanctioned MMA event. The wins aren’t listed on his record and he doesn’t know it they ever will be included, but “it was a good experience for me and some extra cash, too.” Tibau had no idea who his opponents were, but “I’ve fought the best of the world, so I’d be ready for whoever.”
“It reminded me of the old days in Brazil, the tournaments I fought, getting called on short notice,” he said. “It’s not like I’m fighting for five or 10 years, I’ve been doing this for 20 years and have fought for all kinds of promotions. I’ve fought in rings set on the floor, I’ve fought inside an apartment.
“The set looked very gangster-like, it was an industrial area with a cage set in the middle of nowhere, so f*cking cold, and people getting there by helicopter. The production was awesome. It was a great experience. If I were a young kid just starting [in MMA] or used to events like UFC, PFL and Bellator, I’m sure I wouldn’t even leave the car, I’d go back home right away [laughs].”
Winning that tournament and making extra money was perfect for a fighter that hadn’t gotten paid in years. The Brazilian veteran never received his show and win money for his July 2019 victory over Will Brooks at Battlefield FC 2 in China, so his disclosed pay of $20,000 for his win over Efrain Escudero at Golden Boy’s lone MMA card in November 2018 remains his most recent one ahead of his PFL debut Thursday.
“A fighter doesn’t get paid if he’s not fighting,” Tibau said. “It’s hard to make money, but I received some invitations to help in camps and teach seminars. I had great experience in Germany. It gave me an awesome financial support and allowed me to train with different people and know other styles, evolve by training with other athletes.”
The 37-year-old veteran, who now competes as a welterweight, was one of the most active fighter in the UFC roster between 2006 and 2018, and feels at his best and “ready to put on a great show” at PFL 2.
Tibau’s opponent was changed during fight week, going from Alexey Kunchenko to Zeferino, but he remains focused on the ultimate goal of pocketing the million-dollar prize at the end of the year.
“There are champions in the UFC that don’t get paid that kind of money,” he said. “PFL has brought something new with the tournaments and I think it’s great because there are no politics. You will only become champion in the UFC if they want you to, those who sell more [get the shot]. Here at PFL, you will only get there if you earn it. It’s more fair.”