Borrachinha, is this fight happening or not? It will happen. It will take a little longer, it will be in January, not in November like the fans, the UFC and I wanted, but Romero didn’t want it. He asked for January, he will need more time to train. If someone pulls out of the Rockhold vs. Weidman fight, would you accept to replace them? It depends on when (the offer comes). You would have to let me know right now. At the level that we are, I’m fighting Romero, the No. 1 in the ranking, it’s not worth risking a fight on short notice since that a win over Romero would likely give me a title shot. Only if they told me now, you know? I would fight any of them, but they would have to give me necessary time. We all know that MMA is hard on your body. What makes you so sure that Romero is postponing the fight on purpose since we know he got injured against Whittaker? It’s pretty simple. When he got injured — if he really got injured against Whittaker — he already knew how long it would take for him to recover. But he said he would fight me in November. And then he said his doctor hasn’t cleared him yet. But he challenged Cormier in the meantime, so that injury isn’t stopping him from fighting. He believes he needs more time to get ready. Do you think he’s scared to fight you? I think that… When you get to a certain age and you’re going to challenge a certain opponent, and you know that opponent might hurt you, might even damage your health, maybe you need more time to prepare for that fight. Be faster, be better prepared. I think that’s what he’s thinking. He has wins over some of the best of the division, former champions. What do you think you bring to the table that his previous opponents didn’t? What risks do you present to him? Destructive power. Knockout. Being brutally knocked out. I think that’s what messes up with all of them. You talk about his age. Do you think this would be his last fight? Do you think you will be the one to retire him from MMA? Maybe. But I think he re-signed with the UFC. He used this contract to fight me, because the UFC wants it to happen, to force a renegotiation with the UFC. I think he re-signed for eight more fights. I don’t think he will retire after this one. You think he initially accepted the fight and then used this fight with you as a negotiation tactic with the UFC? Exactly. You know, he’s tricky. He has this way of working, using all the tricks he can, so he’s definitely playing with all that to buy more time with the UFC and get a better contract, like he did. We know he uses that Cuban way that he has, even when he fights. He pretends to be dead and then explodes. He stays a little longer in the corner after time runs out, sitting there. All of that. Are you confident that he will accept this fight on Jan. 18? Are you confident he’s taking it? I think so. I’m confident. The UFC is putting pressure on him, because I don’t think he would have accepted it otherwise. But with UFC’s pressure, I think so. Do you want a three-round fight, or prefer five rounds to prepare for a title fight? It doesn’t matter, three or five rounds. I won’t get to the third round with him or anyone else. You’re considered by many as the biggest Brazilian hope in MMA today. Are you surprised by such a quick rise in the UFC? It’s surprising in a way, but on the other hand, it’s not because you see the Brazilian scenario and when someone rises, that person naturally gets under the spotlight, gets more attention. At the same time it’s natural, but I never thought about it. I just thought about the results. When people think about your fight with Romero, many people wonder how you will deal with his level of wrestling. Do you think he will use his wrestling against you, or have the courage to stand with you? I think his biggest intention will be to try to take me down, but the fight starts standing and he has to try something, trade with me, spend some time standing. But he will basically try to take me down, grab me, and I will do my strategy against that game, which is something I’m already used to do. It was the same thing against Hendricks. Keep the distance, attack, and make him feel the power of my strikes. You think this fight is similar to the one against Johny Hendricks style-wise? It will be very similar. Do you think it will be tougher, since he’s in a better moment in his career, despite the fact that he’s coming off losses, and Hendricks was a welterweight coming off many losses? I think it will be very similar. It won’t be different in terms of difficulties. You had four fights in the UFC so far, and athletes usually sign four-fight deals when they come in. When did you re-sign with the UFC? Interesting question. The UFC called me to renew my contract in my second fight. Before of after the fight? After. After I won by knockout at UFC Rio. They called me, which is something unusual. I had a four-fight contract, you’re correct, and I thought ‘well, they see a different value in me.’ I asked for a high number, they said ‘this is way above what we usually pay, so let’s make a deal.’ They proposed the Hendricks fight and then we would negotiate. I said ‘ok, but after that I will ask for more.’ They did this bet with me. If I had lost the fight, would possibly be lower than they had offered. I won and asked what I wanted before, and we did some negotiations and renewed the contract. – Did they get to the number you had asked for?
– More. Can you say approximately how much? Six, seven figures? That’s public, right? It’s more than $100,000. Did you imagine getting to that level only three fights into the UFC? We have to go step by step. It’s hard to imagine four steps ahead. I thought it would be fast, but maybe with the moment the division is going through and me showing my superiority in the fights, it was faster than an average prediction. But I didn’t do a prediction before of how much I wanted to make. How many fights do you have in this new contract? That I don’t know if I can say. The pay I know is public, but that I can’t say, I think. Do you think you personality helped you in that area as well? I think so. Fighters can’t be inhibited, too humble. There’s no humility in the fighting game. If you are confident, you have to say it, otherwise you’re being fake if you believe in something and say you don’t. I think it’s important to show who you are. People want to see that. Nobody wants to see a loser, everybody wants to see someone who believes in himself and proves he’s right. You said that you expect the Romero fight to be as tough as Hendricks. Who do you see as the toughest fight for you in the division? – I think Rockhold is the toughest.
– Why? What does he do to make you think that? Because he likes to fight standing, and so do I, and he has a good reach. His only problem maybe is the mental. When time comes, he doesn’t perform. That’s what happened against a lot of people. With Bisping, with Romero. Romero knocked him out, and that’s something I didn’t predict when the fight was announced. When time comes, he slips. But if he focused, because I don’t think he’s focused, maybe he would be a big title contender. Do you think he would be a tougher fight for you style-wise compared to Romero? I think it’s a lot easier to fight someone who wants to take you down. Way easier. You know he will close the distance, you just need to keep the distance and strike. Especially Romero, who is shorter. Gastelum, for me, is too easy. Too easy, just like Johny Hendricks. They will try to close the distance, so you keep the distance. It’s tougher against strikers, like Hall. They have tricks, and then he tries to take you down that’s really surprising because you think they will fight you on the feet. That’s why I think it’s tougher. Is that why Eric Albarracin is so important in your camp? Very. Eric Albarracin is, for me, the best wrestling coach for MMA. Maybe he will be elected the coach of the year in MMA because Cejudo became champion, he has the Pitbull brothers and me, so he’s very good in what he does. He was here in Rio with me and went to Belo Horizonte now. It’s important to know how to counter. I do an anti-wrestling game, grabbing, holding you down, taking you down. Sometimes they don’t even want to take you down, they just want to stall and let time run out. It’s important to know how to get out of that. Some MMA fans are a bit hypocrite at times because they want fighters to be humble, the martial arts side of it, but value guys that talk trash and sell fights. Do you think about that, how to please the fans? How do you deal with critics that might come due to your confident in your talent? I don’t try to please people. If you’re pleasing some people, you will displease others. You can’t try to please people. I realized that the path to follow is to be yourself. If you’re confident, be confident. If you’re not, if you’re shy, be you. Don’t try to force something you’re not because people can see that and it gets too fake and artificial. Be who you are. Some will like, others won’t. You had to deal with that when you challenged Vitor Belfort. People called you a traitor, saying that Brazilians shouldn’t call out Brazilians. You had to deal with that, right? Yes, but we see Brazilians challenging Brazilians all the time now, Americans challenging Americans. But that criticism was good. I saw how it works. I became more mature.