The year 2011 was the first time in a long time that Renato “Babalu” Sobral didn’t see the inside of a cage or ring for a fight.
The former UFC and Strikeforce fighter was off for the entire year for a few different reasons, but now after signing a new deal with Asian promotion One FC, he’s ready to get back in action.
The time off ended up being a very good thing for Sobral, who hadn’t had a real break from fighting in several years. Unfortunately part of that break was brought about not by choice.
“I’ve been fighting for 12 years, that’s the first time that I’ve taken time off in my life,” Sobral told MMAWeekly.com. “First time I’ve taken a year off from fighting. I had an accident last year snowboarding, I hurt my shoulder pretty bad and I took more time for recovery. After that I spent time with my camp and my family.”
The shoulder healed up, but Sobral was still working on other projects that kept him from getting back into active competition. First, he left his previous team at Gracie Barra and opened his own facility in the Los Angeles area.
He also helped some old friends including former UFC light heavyweight champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua prepare for fights, so he took the focus off his own career for the first time in years.
“I left the Gracie Barra franchise and I now have my own path, my own gym. My new gym is called Babalu’s Iron Gym. That’s what I want to represent now. Just taking time to enjoy different stuff,” Babalu stated.
Now with the batteries recharged, Sobral is ready to engage his career full steam ahead and that starts with signing a new deal with rising Asian promotion One FC. Along with help from the Renzo Gracie team in New York City, who helped make the introductions, Sobral is ready to head back overseas to kick off his new lease on fighting.
“Asia, there’s a lot of potential down there and it was a little blurry with Strikeforce and my contract ended, so this is the step that we made and I think it’s going to be very successful,” said Sobral. “I’m very excited to fight back in Asia. Last time I fought in Asia was in Manila actually, and this fight is going to happen in Singapore and then another one in Manila, so I’m very excited to be back there.”
Prior to his last fight in Strikeforce, Sobral had flirted with the idea of a cut down to middleweight and even met former champion Robbie Lawler in a catchweight bout at 195 pounds in June 2010.
Now almost two years later, Sobral admits a cut down to 185 pounds isn’t likely to happen unless someone is ponying up a lot of cash.
“Light heavyweight division, no more 185 for me,” Sobral said with a laugh. “I’m too old for that unless the money’s right.”
While no opponents have been named for Sobral’s debut, he hopes to face a top name. With over 40 professional fights, and having squared off with some of the top fighters in the sport, Babalu is all about big challenges and that’s what he hopes One FC provides him with.
“On this time in my career, I’ve fought everyone. They’re working on an opponent for me. Whoever they put in front of me in the ring or cage or whatever it is, I’ll be ready,” said Sobral.
“I feel like a fresh man, like a new career, I’m very excited to fight again.”