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UFC veteran Fabiano Iha on a mission to bring old Scouts back to life — and profit six-figures from it

Fabiano Iha

Fighting in the UFC cage wasn’t such a profitable career back in the early 2000s, but Brazilian lightweight Fabiano Iha managed to find a lucrative path he was passionate about when he hung up his gloves years later.

An ADCC medalist who competed once inside the PRIDE ring in 1999, facing Frank Trigg in Tokyo, Iha grew up a fan of fast cars in Florianopolis. At age 18, while still training jiu-jitsu under Crolin Gracie, Iha bought a gas station and opened his own car shop focused on boosting street cars for drag races. He later moved to the United States to kick off his MMA career in 1998 after placing third at that year’s ADCC, and one day saw the car that would change his life.

“I started buying cars for fun,” Iha said in an interview with MMA Fighting. “I bought an old VW Kombi and reformed it for camping. I kind of did that as therapy after training. I brought a car home, got my headphones on, and would work on it for hours and forget about the world. That was my way to relax.”

Iha eventually realized he had a way with restoring cars as people in the streets of California would stop him and ask about his cars, so it was a matter of time before he signed up to car shows. Every car that won trophies, such as the purple and white Kombi and a blue Mustang, would generate great profit down the line, allowing Iha to buy new cars to restore and re-sell.

“I still had a jiu-jitsu gym when I ended my MMA career, but I started buying more cars,” he said. “At that time I only bought and sold cars, I wasn’t restoring them anymore. And that’s when I bought my first International Harvester Scout.”

The blue 1978 Scout wasn’t in such bad condition — “Maybe a 6 out of 10,” he said — but the jiu-jitsu veteran wanted it to be perfect. At that time, a student bought himself another Scout and approached Iha with a business plan: turn their love for Scouts into a business.

Iha wasn’t into teaching classes anymore other than some personal sessions here and there, so it was music to his ears.

Iha changed the engine and suspension or his 1978 Scout, adding a 345ci V8 powertrain, and sold it on auction for $61,500. A red 1977 Scout with a 350ci Chevrolet V8 engine, restored by Iha, sold for $84,000 a month later. Iha’s biggest hit came in March 2023: a beige and white 1972 Scout with Corvette engine (6.0-Liter LS2 V8) sold for $120,000.

“I bought Scouts that were thrown in someone else’s backyard and built them back to life from scratch,” Iha said. “We started auctioning it and actually broke records, so we decided to open the Scout Club in Los Angeles.”

Iha knows he’s barely known in the MMA sphere by today’s young generation of fans, especially those that came in to follow superstars like Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey in recent years. With a record of 10-5 with UFC victories over Daiju Takase, Phil Johns and LaVerne Clark — and having fought the likes of Din Thomas, Caol Uno and Dave Menne inside the octagon — he hopes to one day be known for his skills in the car business.

“I’ve built muscle cars and even a Barracuda before,” Iha said, “but Scouts are my passion.”

Iha’s latest piece of work, a stunning 1973 orange Scout with 5.3-liter Vortec V8 engine, is currently on auction online at Bring A Trailer.

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