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‘It’s now or never’: Felipe Pena still wants to fight MMA but transition delayed with fourth Gordon Ryan match in limbo

Felipe Pena
Photo via Milena Maldonado Freitas

Two-time jiu-jitsu world champion and ADCC absolute gold medalist Felipe Pena wants to make the transition to MMA soon, but knows the clock is ticking.

“Preguiça” was scheduled to meet Gordon Ryan for the fourth time this past February but the American grappler withdrew from the match citing health issues. Pena, who is 2-1 against Ryan, defeated late-notice replacement Nick Rodriguez via decision, and says that the cancellation of the Ryan tetralogy derailed his career plans.

Speaking on this week’s episode of MMA Fighting podcast Trocação Franca, Pena said he planned on transitioning to the new sport after facing Ryan at the Who’s Number One event, but now has a decision to make.

“I don’t know how it’s going to be because I’m 31 so I can’t wait too long to make this transition,” Pena said. “I’ll need some time to learn and evolve and I’m not that young anymore. I think I’m in the limit to make this transition.”

Pena said he’s on the fence about making the transition before grappling Ryan a fourth time since there’s no timetable set yet for Ryan’s clearance to compete after dealing with stomach issues, and the price should be right for him to go to MMA.

“I’ve always had this will [to fight MMA] since I started training jiu-jitsu,” said Pena, who would compete at 205 pounds in MMA. “Watching guys in the UFC and all that attention. To say, ‘I want to become [MMA] champion’. I’ve always wanted to try this sport and test myself. I’ve had experience training Muay Thai and MMA for some time and enjoyed it. I had no problem getting punched in the face.

“With the age thing now, I feel it’s now or never, you know? I have to make a decision. If I’m doing it it has to be now because I can’t do it later. And also the financial side of it, it’s such a bigger sport. If I become in MMA what I am in jiu-jitsu it would be a whole other level of media and money.”

Preguiça said he would prefer going to MMA straight to a major organization, like fellow grappling star Marcus Buchecha did by joining ONE Championship right off the bat, instead of following Rodolfo Vieira’s footsteps, starting his career in smaller companies before eventually signing with the UFC.

Inspired by fellow jiu-jitsu aces Gilbert Burns, Demian Maia and Charles Oliveira, as well as wrestling specialists Georges St-Pierre, Khabib Nurmagomedov and Khamzat Chimaev, Pena reaffirmed he still wants to get the Ryan tetralogy before he rides to MMA.

“I’ll decide in the coming weeks,” Pena said. “My interest is in doing this match. There’s a lot of media on it and everybody wants to see it. But I don’t believe his stomach excuse last time around, so I don’t know if he wants to fight for now. I’m talking to people to see what’s going to happen because I can’t stand by and wait for him to decide when he wants to fight.”

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