At 43, Fabricio Werdum is feeling better than ever as he prepares for his PFL debut on Thursday where he seeks to claim another championship along with a $1 million prize.
The former UFC heavyweight champion inked a deal with the promotion after reaching free agency following his last fight — a submission win over Alexander Gustafsson in July 2020. Since that time, Werdum has continued training and preparing for what he hopes will be a very successful season.
“I have a lot of options to sign when I left UFC, when I go a different way,” Werdum explained when speaking to MMA Fighting. “The PFL called me, the season is amazing, four fights in a short time is good, too. One million dollars and a good contract.
“Ray Sefo is here, too. Ray Sefo was a fighter and now he’s a promoter and this is good. Ray Sefo knows two sides, this is amazing. I’m excited for sure.”
While he won’t actually fight for the promotion until later this week, Werdum has been incredibly impressed by the organization so far, especially when it comes to how the athletes are treated.
With plans to fight for at least another year or two before possibly contemplating retirement, Werdum expects to close out his career with the PFL and he wants to stay with the organization even after he’s done trading punches for a paycheck.
“I think so, yes, for sure,” Werdum answered when asked if he believes the PFL will serve as his final fighting home. “When I finish, I don’t think about this now in this moment. For sure, I just think about my next fight. But I want to help PFL, too. I want to stay as an ambassador. I want to stay here for the PFL to grow up in Brazil, too. In Brazil now we have Combate [on television] and Combate has a deal with PFL now, this is amazing.
“I want to promote this in Brazil. I want to bring the PFL to Brazil, to give a good opportunity for the new guys there. There’s a lot of talent in Brazil. I want to bring the PFL to Brazil. I want it to be famous in Brazil. This is my big goal. Not just fight but I want to help the PFL grow up.”
It says a lot that Werdum has grown to like working with the PFL so much in such a short amount of time, especially considering the long list of promotions from his past.
“I’m very happy here,” Werdum said. “I fight in Japan in PRIDE, in the UFC, in Strikeforce, Jungle Fights, a lot of different events and PFL surprised me. When I come to the bubble, you see the organization, it’s incredible.”
Part of the enjoyment that Werdum has felt stems from the more traditional sports format employed at the PFL where fighters compete in a regular season followed by playoffs and eventually the championships.
He’s no longer forced to play politics in order to get certain fights and there’s no trash talk required to earn a shot at the championship. The only thing Werdum has to do now is fight and win, nothing else really matters.
A perfect example comes in his debut fight this week where Werdum faces off with Renan Ferreira, who is a member of Team Nogueira — a gym founded by brothers Antonio Rodrigo and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. Of course, Werdum faced “Big Nog” twice during his career, including a submission win over him in 2013, and now he’ll face one of Nogueira’s students in Ferreira.
Now that might sound like an easy way to promote a fight — a student attempting to avenge his teacher but thankfully Werdum knows none of that is necessary because the PFL is just about the competition.
“I love Nogueira,” Werdum said. “I fought with him two times in Japan in PRIDE. This is my good friend today. I love him. He’s amazing. Everyone loves him in Brazil, too, and it’s just professional. I like what you say, I don’t have to say bad things about my opponent. Why? I have to show inside the cage, inside the octagon, there I have to show a good fight, an exciting fight.
“I don’t have to say nothing about him. If he says bad things about me, for sure, I’ll respond. But if he don’t say nothing, I say nothing, just a good fight and that’s it.”
Heading into the fight, Werdum is not only favored to beat Ferreira on Thursday night but he’s also been pegged as a heavy favorite to win the entire season while adding another championship to his resume.
That puts an awfully big target on Werdum’s back because past accomplishments can’t sway the outcome of future fights.
But don’t expect Werdum to suddenly begin wilting under the weight of the situation or even allow the odds to determine his performance. The only thing he can control is getting himself ready for a very busy 2021 where the Brazilian legend hopes to add yet another title to his resume before the year is over.
“The pressure, every time I say the same thing,” Werdum explained. “The pressure when you have an injury or you don’t have good training, when something happens, this is a lot of pressure. With me now, everything is the opposite. I have good training, everything is OK. My mindset is OK. When you become a champion is when your mind and your body is on the same line. Cause sometimes your body is responding very well but your mind is no good or it’s the opposite, your mind is good but your body don’t respond. You have to follow that same line for both and go to the championship.
“I have zero pressure in the tournament cause I’m preparing my body. I know I’m good. The fighters know when you’re good or not. I’m very good.”