Fabricio Werdum is at the top of his game, but rumors of the UFC heavyweight champion’s imminent retirement have sprung up in recent weeks.
Forums and social media in Brazil and beyond have seen speculation that, should he successfully defend his belt against Cain Velasquez at UFC 196, “Vai Cavalo” will hang up his gloves. In fact, two years ago, Werdum himself stated that he would walk away if he could submit then-champion Velasquez in their first meeting.
Now, however, things have changed. In a recent interview with Sherdog.com, Werdum -- with his usual sense of humor -- denied any new rumors that his career is coming to a close.
“Now that I’m getting rich, why would I retire? No way! I want to make history” Werdum told Sherdog.com. “I want to be considered the best heavyweight fighter in history by the fans. I started beating Fedor [Emelianenko], [Mark] Hunt, Velasquez -- a long list. I was always considered the underdog. So, now I think I’m starting a new phase in my career where I’m not the underdog anymore.
“In the beginning, everybody said that I was a jiu-jitsu fighter. I think I could change that, too, by evolving my standup skills. Of course, I have much more to evolve, but when I see my fights today, I can recognize that I’ve been able to add new skills to my game. So, no way am I thinking about retirement. I’m 38 years old and my body is in perfect shape. I’ve never had any serious injuries, never even taken hard punishment to my head, so I have a lot of story left to write in that sport.”
One recent fight on which Werdum surely had an eye was the Dec. 19 duel featuring Alistair Overeem and Junior dos Santos -- a potential title eliminator between the two men responsible for Werdum’s only losses since 2008. After a tense beginning to the bout, Overeem leveled dos Santos with a barrage of strikes in the second round.
“I think ‘Cigano’ was so focused on fighting for the belt that he ended up underestimating Overeem, who, by the way, had a perfect strategy by fighting southpaw and confounding Cigano’s game,” Werdum observed. “I’m sure Cigano will learn a lot from his mistakes, just like I did from my losses, and come back stronger.”
Werdum also talked about a potential superfight between his teammate, UFC lightweight champ Rafael dos Anjos, and featherweight kingpin Conor McGregor.
“Actually, it was McGregor who started that challenge,” Werdum said. “I think it would be excellent for Rafael. He defeated [Donald] Cerrone, who’s a really tough fighter, in great fashion. After what he showed against Cerrone and [Anthony] Pettis, I think Rafael will knock out Conor fast and end his cocky style.”
On the topic of McGregor, Werdum believes that former featherweight champion Jose Aldo deserves an immediate rematch with the Irishman who took his title in just 13 seconds. In fact, Werdum said, Aldo is more deserving than Velasquez when it comes to getting a chance to reclaim UFC gold.
“I respect Velasquez a lot, but the way that fight went, he shouldn’t have an immediate rematch,” Werdum declared. “For example, if it’s a split decision or a fast fight -- in the case of a 10-year, dominant champion like Aldo -- the immediate rematch makes sense. But, the way I dominated [Velasquez] in the standup and then submitted him, I don’t think an immediate rematch is fair.”
Werdum does not buy into the idea that the high altitude of Mexico City -- where his first bout with Velasquez took place -- was a major factor in his title win.
“Some people talk about altitude. I didn’t know altitude could cut and submit people,” Werdum said. “But it’s no problem. I’m training hard to prove to the world that I can beat him at sea level.”