The past 12 months saw no shortage of candidates for the 2016 World MMA Awards’ “Knockout of the Year,” which will be given out this Friday at the Venetian Theatre in Las Vegas.
Two stunning victories that shook the MMA world have emerged as favorites: Conor McGregor’s left hand which ended the reign of UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo, and the head kick from Holly Holm that put down previously unbeaten Ronda Rousey.
However, one underdog in the category is hoping to make waves with an upset of his own.
Brazilian welterweight Jorge Filho is up for the award thanks to a beautiful spinning back-kick which knocked out Claudio Cezario at November’s Jungle Fight 83 in Rio de Janeiro. It is the only nominee in the category which did not take place in the UFC or Bellator MMA.
Filho, a humble fighter from the Rio favela of Acari, divides his time between training at the gym of former UFC fighter Pedro Rizzo and working as a garbageman for the city’s Municipal Company of Urban Cleaning (COMLURB). He was recently profiled on the Brazilian TV program “TV Record,” and thanks to the huge national audience who saw Filho’s story, he was able to obtain a ticket to Las Vegas so that he can attend Friday’s award ceremony.
“I’m really moved,” Filho said when he was awarded with the ticket. “Actually, I’ve never left Brazil. To be able to go to Vegas and participate in the most important awards in MMA is something I never imagined.”
Aware of his underdog status, Filho remains optimistic and compares himself to Brazilian soccer player Wendell Lira, a relative unknown who beat out superstar Lionel Messi to win the 2015 FIFA Puskas Award for most beautiful goal.
“When the winner is decided by the fans via Internet, you never know what’s gonna happen,” said Filho. “If Lira defeated Messi, why can’t I beat McGregor or Holm? I know their knockouts were more important, but mine was more beautiful, and that makes me confident I can bring this award back to Brazil.”
Win or lose, Filho will return to his reality when he comes back from Vegas. The part-time fighter spends three hours training at Rizzo’s gym in the morning, followed by an eight-hour shift at COMLURB in the Rocinha favela. At night, Filho spends two hours teaching taekwondo for children at a social project in Acari.
But things are looking up for Filho’s fighting career, too. On March 26, “Jorginho” will fight for the Jungle Fight welterweight title against current champion Handesson Ferreira, a former sparring partner of Bellator star Michael Page. Ferreira comes from a strong camp at Kimura Nova Uniao, where he trains under the tutelage of Jair Lourenco and Renan Barao. Once again, Filho knows he will be the underdog.
“I actually love challenges, so when people say I’m the underdog, it motivates me more,” Filho explained. “If I’m fighting for the belt in the most important Brazilian event and competing in the ‘MMA Oscars’ with McGregor, it’s because I was able to overcome adversities, and I’ll keep doing that all my life.”