Ribeiro Represents Boxe Thai Legacy

For new MMA fans, the name Boxe Thai does not mean much.

New teams and fighters arise all the time, especially in the United States, where the sport's popularity has exploded. Yet the presence of Boxe Thai representative Will Ribeiro (Pictures) at the June 1 WEC marks a long journey for the Brazilian MMA and muay Thai team.

During the days when MMA was called "Anything Goes" or "No Holds Barred," Boxe Thai carried immeasurable importance. The club sent fighters to Shootboxing, Pride, the UFC, Shooto and Pancrase. Names such as Marcelo Aguiar, Ebenezer Fontes Braga (Pictures), Artur Mariano, Dario Amorim, Alex Gaze (Pictures), Johnny Eduardo and Angelo Sergio represented the team and garnered attention and respect for those who were part of it.

However, as the sport evolved from the old days to the new, the team suffered from not developing its young fighters and also from lacking connections with the big shows.

Ribeiro is striving to rebuild the Boxe Thai name. He will take an excellent amateur boxing record of 69-11 into his U.S. debut on Sunday in Sacramento, Calif., against former WEC 135-pound champion Chase Beebe (Pictures).

"I assume this responsibility of repositioning my team under the MMA spotlights again," Ribeiro says. "I feel great for doing that. Boxe Thai is in a partnership with Minotauro Team and Nova Uniao, so I have Andre Pederneiras, Luiz Alves and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (Pictures) sharpening my game and the conditioning is with Andre Martins. I can say all is perfect and I will prove that. I am very focused on my fight against Chase Beebe (Pictures) and I am sure this is going to be a great fight -- an awesome show."

Ribeiro's older teammates retired after intriguing careers. Braga fought in Pancrase, the UFC and Pride. Mariano was the only man to stand and beat Wanderlei Silva (Pictures) in a bare-knuckle fight. Now Ribeiro, who has "Will" not only as his first name but also as his attitude, is trying to follow in their footsteps.

"As they made their dream come true with these achievements, this is my dream coming true as well," he says. "Since I was a kid I wanted this. I need to take this opportunity. I wished to fight outside Brazil. Now that I've reached that, I will not lose this chance -- no way."

Battling for recognition while setting your sights for the highest achievements in the sport can be quite a burden on a 25-year-old fighter like Ribeiro. Just look at the unsuccessful transition of one of Boxe Thai's most talented Thai practitioners, Alex Gaze (Pictures). The golden boy compiled an extraordinary 19-3 résumé in muay Thai, but Gaze scored only two victories in six MMA fights, which reduced his status to that of only a respected Thai fighter.

"Gaze is an example of perseverance, and I took from him all that he advised me," Ribeiro says. "He has much more experience than I do, and this is what matters. Look at me: I was supposed to take on Damacio Page (Pictures). Later it was changed to Kenji Osawa (Pictures), and the promoters were moving me to the WEC in August. Finally I'll end up facing the former champion [on Sunday]. Of course I stayed a little disoriented with these opponent changes, but I'm glad. Thankfully I have No Gi fight wear as a sponsor to keep my bills paid. In my opinion, things worked nicely for me. All the fighters from Boxe Thai have a huge expectation over my international debut, and they think I will shine."

Many of Ribeiro's veteran teammates are already done fighting. Mariano retired prematurely due to leg problems, and Braga also almost left early because his religion was against MMA. Ribeiro has also had setbacks. He lost his biggest supporter, his mother, in 2003 -- the same year he became a pro MMA fighter.

"Have you any idea of how tough this is?" he asks with his head down. "She was the person who gave all her efforts to make certain I would become a pro fighter. This was what made me strong enough to keep going. She is in heaven and she knows I did everything because of the support she gave me in life. I am going to my 11th professional fight with only one defeat. I feel her positive energy. Miss Tereza Cristina is with me, not only in the mind, but in the heart as well."

After discussing the unfortunate loss of his beloved mother, a funny and peculiar issue arises to change Ribeiro's mood. His second pro MMA fight is not listed in the Sherdog.com Fight Finder due to a lack of information.

"I wanted a Sherdogger here to complain about it, but I don't even have the full information about that event," Ribeiro says with a smile. "I remember I was in a night club and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (Pictures) said, ‘Do you want to fight?' I could not hear, so he yelled again, ‘Do you want to fight?' I said, ‘Yes, I do.' He simply told me to take a bag with trunks, mouthpiece and two or three clothes and go to the airport. I had a ticket. Objective was to fight in an event in the north of Brazil."

With his head nearly blasted by the night of drinking and partying, Ribeiro felt for the first time as if he had been knocked down without taking a single punch. To make things worse, the rules were bare knuckle with head butts. Yet Ribeiro won by decision and then dedicated himself to the sport to compile a 9-1 record.

Now, against Beebe, he's looking for his 10th win.

"He has a huge head," says the young Boxe Thai star. "I have a big one, but his is something enormous. I respect him. He is a former champion, but I am not missing my punches, kicks and elbows to his head, that big target. I need this victory. I am going to knock him out. I need to mark my territory. Nothing will be better than landing the former champion to the canvas in a brutal way. He is tough I know, but I think people that do not know me think this will be Beebe's redemption. They are wrong; this will not happen. They can think whatever they want, but I know what I am ready to do. Defeat is not in my plans."
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