With a UFC title shot looming, Fabricio Werdum elects to take a big risk

Kevin Iole
Yahoo Sports
Re-watch the biggest wins of Fabricio Werdum's career (Getty Images)

Fabricio Werdum

Re-watch the biggest wins of Fabricio Werdum's career (Getty Images)

Fabricio Werdum has fought once in the last 22 months, and the layoff could have been longer. He agreed to face Travis Browne on April 19 in the main event of a UFC card in Orlando, Fla., rather than sitting out and waiting for champion Cain Velasquez to heal.

Werdum earned the right to fight for the title by defeating Roy Nelson, Mike Russow and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.

But Velasquez needed shoulder surgery after his UFC 166 win over Junior dos Santos in October, requiring Werdum to make the most difficult decision a fighter has to make: Do I sit and wait for the title fight, or do I take a bout in the interim?

Velasquez is not expected to return until November, but Werdum never had a doubt what his decision would be. As badly as he wanted to fight for the title, he didn't want to sit around.

"Fighting for the title means everything, of course," Werdum said. "But when? Travis Browne is a great fighter and I love that fight. It made sense to take that fight."

Current UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis had to make that decision in 2011, and he chose to fight. But it blew up in his face when he lost to Clay Guida.

Others have chosen to sit and wait. It's a highly personal decision, but there is no question which side of the argument UFC president Dana White sits.

He scoffed at a suggestion that the decision to fight Browne could blow up in Werdum's face, given that Werdum had been promised a title shot against the Velasquez-dos Santos winner.

"It can't blow up in your face because you're either the best in the world or you're not," White said. "You're going to have to fight all of these guys anyway. If you really believe you're the best, you take on all comers and prove it."

Styles make fights and sometimes fighters use that as a gauge.

But White said the loss of momentum, among many other potential problems, is also a critical factor.

"How many times have you seen the flip, where the guy doesn't take the fight and chooses to sit and wait and he's been out all this time, not getting paid, not making money, not staying busy, not being active, not getting better, and the closer you get to the fight, he winds up getting hurt?" White said. "He winds up blowing out an ACL and he's out for a year or more. Then what's going to happen?

"I love it when guys do what Werdum did and take fights. Travis Browne is an absolute monster, man. This guy is getting so much better. The guy is incredible now, he really is, and Werdum said, 'Yeah, I want to fight that guy.' That's the kind of guy you want and that you want to do business with."

Werdum right now is known as the man who ended the legendary Fedor Emelianenko's 28-fight unbeaten streak, when he submitted the Russian destroyer in just 69 seconds of the first round.

That turned him from a largely unknown figure into an overnight sensation.

But Werdum, who has been doing television work for the UFC Network in Latin America, also knows that victories over Browne and Velasquez in his next two fights will put him at an entirely different level.

"There is nothing like being the UFC champion," he said. "When I beat Fedor, everybody was saying, 'Who is this guy? How could this fellow have beaten Fedor?' But to become the UFC champion, you're the best in the world, no question about it.

"That to me is really the point. I never worried about taking the fight [with Browne] because I want to prove that I'm the best in the world and win the championship. To do that, these are the fights you must take and must win."

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