When reflecting on Pride’s Final Conflict 2005 event, the Brazilian Top Team could have a bittersweet feeling. After Ricardo Arona became the first middleweight fighter in five years to defeat Wanderlei Silva in the Middleweight Grand Prix semi-finals, he failed to succeed in defeating Maurico “Shogun” Rua in the finals.
Thus after the immense high of the win over Silva, the euphoria came crashing down to reality thanks to Rua. Now upon returning home from an extended trip overseas, BTT founder and leader Mario Sperry spoke to MMA Weekly and discussed the events of FC 2005 and what is ahead in the coming months for one of the best MMA teams in the world.
“I think the kid (Arona) did pretty well in the first fight, but our mistake was we focused too much on that first fight,” said Sperry. “We got real excited with the first fight and then things cooled down and we realized that Ricardo was kind of hurt. His neck wasn’t too good going into the second fight so he wasn’t able to concentrate as much on the second fight too well.”
Sperry continued, “As far as I am concerned, at the start of the fight he (Arona) smacked his head on the ground and got dizzy and didn’t recover. Still, Shogun was a better fighter that day, he looked more aggressive, he wanted to be more the champ in the beginning.”
Even though Arona lost in the finals, Sperry is still very proud of his accomplishments, “He is the first fighter to beat Wanderlei in many years, that is very special and he is very gifted and will continue to get better.”
Now that the Middleweight GP is finished, the BTT can center on the upcoming Bushido 183lb tournament in which they have two fighters involved.
“We have Murilo Bustamante in the tournament and Paulo Filho will be an alternate,” said Sperry of the BBT’s involvement in the tournament. “We are very confident for them, they are training hard and are in shape now more than before. With think we are going to win all the fights in September.”
The confidence that Sperry shows in his team’s chances come from the fact that both fighters have a distinct advantage coming into the new welterweight division as opposed to the larger middleweight division.
“I think Paulo is able to fight either way (welterweight or middleweight), he’s one of the strongest people that I ever had the chance to train,” proclaimed Sperry. “He’s got a lot of skills and is learning so fast. He weighs around 195-196lbs normally and is around 187lbs now. He will be able to cut weight and the day of the fight he’s going to be strong. For Murlio this is the best option. He always did well at this weight in the UFC, so this is the best weight for him and of course he’s going to put on a great show.”
After this month’s Bushido tournament there is the question of October’s Pride 30 show. When it comes to the BTT’s participation is a little bit more up in the air.
According to Sperry, “We don’t know exactly what Pride promoters want to do, but if they want us to do the show then that’s good, we’re looking forward to it. Everybody is ready, Rogerio (Nogueira) is training hard and Minotauro (Rodrigo Nogueira) maybe be fighting. For him (Minotauro) it really depends on the opponent because he had two surgeries recently, one on each arm. Coming back he will be ready I feel, but it depends on who he’ll be fighting (to determine) if he’s on the show. Everybody is kind of waiting to see what the promoters are going to do, but we will be doing some things after Bushido I’m sure.”
For Sperry, a return to action for the first time since February is also a possibility. “I’m waiting also, I have one more fight on my contract and it is up soon. I was focused on training guys for the Grand Prix, now I’m free and am training hard and ready to fight.”
As always no matter what is going on at the current time for the BTT, the future is always on the mind of Sperry and the team is constantly preparing for what’s next. “We are always trying to improve ourselves and soon we will sit down and figure things out. We have to prepare ourselves and have to get better or we’ll get left behind. The fights we lost this year were all great fights and we’re working to have many good results before the end of the year.”
“We’re just waiting for promoters and training hard. Our goal is always the same; we want to win everything we can. The fights are getting harder but we enjoy the challenge. The harder it gets, the better for us, we want to push our limits. We are thankful that everyone is interested in what we do in Brazil and we are going to train hard and put on good shows for the fans and defend our team,” concluded Sperry.