As he prepares for his ADCC bout against Fabio Gurgel, Mario Sperry has put any coaching plans on hold. | Jim Page/Sherdog.com
As the founder of Brazilian Top Team and former trainer of the Blackzilians, Mario Sperry is still considered one of the most respected MMA coaches in Brazil. The 46-year-old Pride Fighting Championshps veteran is currently training at X-Gym for a superfight against Fabio Gurgel at the 2013 Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships.
Shortly after a sparring session last week, Sperry talked to Sherdog.com about Ronaldo Souza’s development and the rematch between Vitor Belfort and Dan Henderson. He also speculates on the futures of two other talented Brazilians: Rousimar Palhares and Junior dos Santos
What did you think of Jacare´s victory against Okami?
Jacare is becoming a unpredictable fighter. Everyone expected the ground game against Okami, but he came in striking and surprised. Jacare and Vitor Belfort are the big names who will compete for the belt soon.
Josuel Distak said that if Anderson Silva beats Chris Weidman, Jacare would move to light heavyweight. What do you think about that?
I am conservative. I always liked to see my athletes in the category in which they are used to fighting. Today MMA is more business than sport, so if Jacare has to move to 205 pounds, he will. But I think his [best] division is 185. He will remain competitive in the division above, but there will be stronger athletes. I'd rather see him at middleweight.
How do you see Vitor Belfort’s bout against Dan Henderson at UFC Fight Night 32 going down?
The fight favors Vitor now. He has a [lot of momentum], the best of his career. Vitor is like wine: the older he gets the better he gets.
Who do you favor in the Silva-Weidman rematch?
It will once again be a tough fight for Anderson due to the abilities of Weidman. The first fight was not easy, and the second will not be. Weidman will come even more prepared.
In our last talk you said Jacare is a tougher opponent for Weidman than Silva. Why do you think so?
Comparisons are complicated, but I think their styles match. What does Weidman do best? Takedowns. What Jacare do best? Jiu - jitsu. So that's why I think Jacare would be more complicated. Against Jacare, Weidman would be insecure, unsure if the fight would unfold standing or on the ground. Against Anderson, he can expect to fight standing. And this unpredictability makes, for me, Jacare more dangerous for Weidman. Also, I´m really impressed the way Jacaré is developing his MMA game. I see him training here every day. His ground game is amazing. He has dangerous weapons standing up, his cardio is absolutely impressive and his heart is scary. I see him with all the tools to be a champion.
I remember when you introduced me to Junior dos Santos and Rousimar Palhares. After seeing their first sparring sessions, you told me they would be Top 10 fighters in the world soon. A few years later, they proved you were right. How do you see their futures now ?
Cain Velasquez will combine wrestling with boxing [when he faces dos Santos at UFC 166]. I think Cigano could try the same thing: try takedowns and also use boxing. I still find it a difficult fight for Cigano. I see Cain as a favorite. Not to take anything away from Junior, but the first fight was very fast, and there was no way to assess properly what he did right. In the second fight, Cain had a successful strategy. Junior took a punch and was lost. It is difficult, but not impossible. The early rounds will be critical.
What about Palhares? What do you expect from him in the welterweight division?
I have not followed Rousimar, but I have heard that he is well. Toquinho changed teams, and we hope that all change is for the betterr . Team Nogueira has a great coach, Everaldo Penco, who came from jiu-jitsu and understands MMA. Toquinho had good times and bad times and did not show everything he knows. But changing divisions and teams can benefit him.
You have already created Brazilian Top Team and coached the Blackzilians. What can we expect from Mario Sperry the coach in the near future?
I'm training at X-Gym for my fight against Fabio Gurgel. Being in the middle of the fight is a huge satisfaction; I feel young beside the young kids. I feel good because people respect me as an athlete, even at 46 years old. As a coach I have nothing set. I have no intention of working with athletes now but if opportunities appear, I'm here to help.
And as a fighter: what do you expect of the fight against Gurgel ?
Fabio is great athlete; it will be a war. He's training, I'm also training. He has a great chance to beat me. He's in a good era, living the fight game a studying a more modern jiu-jitsu. But I have my history in the fight, and I'm confident. So let´s see what happens in China.