MMA fighters usually study their opponents’ game at length once a fight is booked. By a stroke of luck, Renan Ferreira will be making his PFL debut against someone whose game he has dissected a while ago.
Ferreira makes his first walk to the Professional Fighters League’s cage Thursday night in Atlantic City, N.J., to face former UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum years after playing Werdum in the biopic of jiu-jitsu legend Fernando “Tererê” Augusto.
“Terere” was a fan-favorite in jiu-jitsu, a two-time IBJJF middleweight world champion with grappling wins over the likes of Marcelo Garcia, Nino Schembri, Matt Serra and Leo Santos. “Terere” decided to give it a try as a super heavyweight in 2004, losing to Werdum in the IBJJF Worlds final.
“Terere’s” life went off the rails for almost a decade after that, getting arrested in the United States for allegedly “causing a disturbance” during a fight and later battling mental problems and drug addiction.
The “Terere” biopic is expected to be released later this year, and Ferreira was invited by Caco Souza, the director of “The Black Belt — The real story of Fernando Tererê,” to play Werdum in their epic 2004 final. “Terere” is played by two-time International Emmy Award nominee Raphael Logam.
“It was a great opportunity, brother,” Ferreira said in an interview with MMA Fighting. “I never imagined that it would end up with this fight with Werdum. My friend Caco, who wrote this movie, invited me to play Werdum in the movie, and I was thrilled about it. I ended up doing it, we rehearsed it a lot, and everything went great.”
Ferreira re-watched Werdum’s jiu-jitsu matches from the early-2000’s to learn how he moved on the mat, and studied his style extensively for the movie.
“I watched it many times because I wanted it to look very real,” he said. “If you’ve watched this match before you know it starts with that ‘Terere’ swing, Werdum moving around, so I had to watch it closely to move just like he moved.”
Ferreira and Werdum will collide inside the PFL cage 17 years after that match and feels like “destiny” for Ferreira. “Problema” started his journey in martial arts through the “gentle art” and made the transition to mixed martial arts in 2013, 11 months before “Vai Cavalo” won the UFC interim heavyweight championship.
Werdum submitted Alexander Gustafsson inside one round at UFC Fight Island 3 this past July before parting ways with the company and joining PFL, and Ferreira feels ready for such challenge.
“I’m very happy to be facing someone with so many qualities, someone who has given so much joy to Brazil in the MMA world,” said Ferreira, who holds a 6-2 MMA record with five knockouts and lone submission finish.
“Werdum has a slick jiu-jitsu, but fighting is not only about grappling. He has good striking too, he’s very versatile, and I’m ready in all areas. I’m quite confident wherever the fight goes. He’s an idol who has beaten a lot of great champions, but a fight is always 50-50. I’m prepared and I’ll give my best wherever I go. I’m here to stay and I’ll write my name in the history books.”