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After some days of mystery, Fabricio Werdum went public with his decision to withdraw from the 2021 Professional Fighters League season.
Werdum met Renan Ferreira at PFL 3: 2021 Regular Season, and the heavyweights went to battle for just over half a round. When the fight hit the ground, Werdum slapped on a triangle choke and appeared to elicit a tap, but referee Keith Peterson was not in position to observe it so Ferreira kept fighting and knocked Werdum out.
The New Jersey State Athletic Control Board later overturned the result to a no contest, but the strikes to Werdum did some lasting damage. In an interview with Sherdog, the all-time great revealed that his neurologist, Dr. Wuilker Knoner Campos, did not allow him to return after a series of tests.
“As I told you a few hours after the fight against Renan Ferreira, I got a medical suspension,” Werdum explained. “When I arrived in Brazil, my doctor did many exams, and found my left temple was really swollen and asked me to not train for one month. When I was 20 or even 30, I’ve hidden many injuries to be able to fight, even without any training, but now I need to prioritize my health. I’m 43 years old. I want to see my daughters growing up healthy. I postponed that decision until the last minute, but 10 days ago, after talking to my family and master Rafael Cordeiro, I communicated with PFL and they gave me [full] support.”
Werdum made clear, however, that retirement is not part of his plan anytime soon.
“I just need some more time to recover and return to the training. I’ve never been so valued by an [organization], and as soon as I’m fine, I’ll be ready to fight anyone they choose.”
Despite all the drama with Ferreira on the first round of the season, Werdum didn’t show any desire to rematch his opponent.
“I’m not focused on revenge. Let him make his career. He is arriving in the sport right now. I’ve always faced the toughest heavyweights in my career and never choose opponents; if PFL thinks it is an interesting matchup when I return, I don’t see any problem,” the legendary heavyweight said.
As he is currently out of the tournament and not likely able to reach the playoffs unless he serves as an alternate, he is now cheering for his countryman, Bruno Henrique Cappelozza.
“I liked the aggressive way [Cappelozza] fought. Backstage, he was like an underdog, the ‘small guy among big guys,’ but when the cage closed, he showed what is made [of]. Strong, fast, explosive, and [capable of] winning via fast knockout. My cheering is for him.”
When asked to choose a favorite to get the million-dollar prize, however, Werdum did not pick his heavy-handed Brazilian counterpart. Instead, he has his sights set on Russian powerhouse Denis Goltsov.
“I have a feeling [Goltsov] will be the champion this year. Actually, he almost knocked out the former champion, Ali Isaev. I see him [beating] Sayles via first-round KO, scoring 12 points and reaching the semifinal. I believe he will be the champion this year.”
PFL’s fourth card of the season is not the only event up this coming weekend, and teammate Marvin Vettori will be vying for the middleweight throne. At UFC 263, Vettori will rematch Israel Adesanya in the main event on Saturday, and Werdum believes that his coach Rafael Cordeiro’s strategy along with Vettori’s evolution will make the difference.
“I’m really impressed how hard this kid [Vettori] trains, and how much he evolved since he arrived in the academy,” Werdum admitted. “Actually, he was the first one to show Adesanya’s weaknesses three years ago, and I can guarantee that he improved a lot from there. Besides that, he has the best MMA coach by his side, so be ready to see this kid shock the world.”
Former Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight champion Werdum is the only fighter who won at Abu Dhabi Combat Club (twice) and World Jiu-Jitsu Championship (twice), while capturing belts in the UFC and Strikeforce. “Vai Cavalo” posts a record of 24-9-1 with a no contest in almost 20 years as a professional MMA fighter, with his only career stoppage losses coming by knockout to Alexander Volkov, Stipe Miocic and Junior dos Santos.
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