UFC light heavyweight Fabio Maldonado had recently prevailed in a brutal war of attrition in late March against Gian Villante when his manager Alex Davis called him with an offer from UFC matchmaker Joe Silva to step in and fight Stipe Miocic on short notice after Junior Dos Santos had pulled out of their May 31 bout with an injury. Maldonado had just fought, wouldn't have much time to prepare for Miocic and, of course, is a whole weight class smaller than the top-ten heavyweight.
So, of course, the Brazilian didn't hesitate to accept the fight. "He didn't blink," Davis tells Cagewriter on Wednesday afternoon with a chuckle.
The 34 year-old former boxer had managed to right his ship in the 205 pound division to the tune of winning three straight fights. Why on earth did he agree to give up necessary rest and recovery time just to go up in weight to fight a bigger opponent on short notice?
"Simple," Maldonado tells us. "I'm a man. I'm not hurt so there's no reason not to take on a challenge like this."
Perhaps nothing sums up the slugger better than those three words - "I'm a man." As a man, and as a fighter, Maldonado believes to his core that anything less than a willingness to fight anyone, anytime at any cost would be humiliating.
Fans could see it in his come-from-behind win against Villante where Maldonado looked out-classed in the first round but rallied to bully and batter his opponent for the win. You could see it on Maldonado's bloodied and outraged face when the ringside doctor mercifully stopped his fight against Glover Teixeira in 2012.
Chances are, despite being a huge underdog against Miocic, we'll see that same spirit in Maldonado come Saturday night at The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil Finale event. The fighter out of Sao Paulo may not be physically capable of being any other way.
"Different fighters have different styles," he tells us when we ask about the difference between folks who gut through pain and fatigue and those who stop.
"I think its really shameful if you give up while you can still fight. I was really upset when they stopped the fight with Glover. When I watched the tape later I realized that it was the right decision but I was upset that they stopped it. It is a shame to not continue to fight when you can still fight."
Maldonado says he's always felt that way. He began fighting at just 17 years old and through 45 amateur boxing bouts and 22 professional ones, he stayed true to it.
Twenty seven fights into his pro MMA career and the proud puncher still isn't backing down. "If I start running at a pace, I always end up stronger," he says.
"I'll always go longer and I'll always go further."
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- Martial Arts
- Fabio Maldonado
- Gian Villante
- Junior Dos Santos