by Mick Hammond
At last month’s Bushido: The Tournament, there was a lot of talent on hand which helped produce one of the most memorable and exciting nights in MMA history. And while much of the talk following the event has centered around the finalists for both the lightweight and welterweight division championships, one couldn’t help but notice the exceptional performance of welterweight reserve fighter Paulo Filho.
Filho, a member of the famed Brazilian Top Team, continued his undefeated ways when he applied a slick arm bar to MMA veteran Ryuta Sakurai just under four minutes into their reserve bout. Even though he did not make the main draw, Filho looked every bit the rising star that he continues to be and live up to the high expectations that have him among the best second generation fighters of the BTT.
Over the course of his four year career, Filho has mainly competed at 205lbs but managed to get down to the welterweight limit of 183lbs for the fight, as Filho told MMA Weekly recently, it wasn’t easy, but his determination made it possible.
“I just had a 1500 calories diet,” said Filho. “It was pretty hard (to lose weight) but my will to fight gave me the strength to do it.”
One of the side effects of cutting weight in such a short period of time is a loss of strength. According to Paulo, he did experience that side effect this time, but he doesn’t plan to suffer from it in the future. “I lost some of my power. Next time I will hold my weight down so to lose it will not be so hard, then I will have all my power.”
When it comes to the fight itself, Filho admits that his strategy is straightforward and to the point, “I always fight to win as quickly as I can. As submissions are my strongest point, I try them first.”
As one of the most promising young fighters around, the future is very open for Paulo. Regardless of what weight class he continues to compete in, his passion for fighting and the leadership of BTT founder Mario Sperry drives him to succeed.
“Any weight class for me is fine,” commented Filho. “It really depends on what Pride wants to do with me. I just want to fight, in any weight division. Mario Sperry is taking care of my career and as soon as Pride needs me, I will be there.”
Paulo continued, “I want to fight as much as I can. (Fighting) with the best would be even better. I want to get to the top and I’m confident in my training and in my team. So what I want is to be at the top.”
Never so evident was Filho’s desire to be a top fighter clearer than when he was part of a single night 4-main elimination tournament at Bushido 6. During his first match against Amar Suloev, Filho injured his leg but was determined to fight Dean Lister for the right to fight in Pride’s Middleweight Grand Prix. It finally took Pride staff and his teammates to convince him not to fight.
Paulo explains his desire to continue to compete, even though injured by stating, “I did that because I knew it was my chance to get into the GP. Moreover, the other GP (welterweight) was going to take a while to happen, so I had to go, but they wouldn’t let me, maybe next time.”
Even though it would be easy to place all the reasons for his success on his natural talent, Filho is vehement to give credit to the BTT not only for giving him the tools to succeed in MMA, but also for inspiring him to succeed.
“I am a very lucky fighter to be at BTT,” said Paulo. “(There is) great training, great techniques, great teachers and managers in a very good atmosphere. We are like a family, I owe everything to my team.”
“When I was young I used to see the BTT leaders kick everybody’s asses, even today Mario and Murilo (Bustamante) are there fighting and training like animals. It is really an inspiration to me to have those guys around,” further commented Filho.
Not only does Filho speak highly of his teammates; they also speak highly of him. Mario Sperry himself has commented on how Filho is one of the most physically gifted fighters he has ever worked with, and the relevance of Sperry’s words are not lost on Paulo. “If Mario said that then I must be very strong because he is not weak at all.”
Paulo is definitely a fighter to keep an eye on in the future. As the sport grows and the young talent continues to supplant the old veterans and make their own mark on MMA, you can be sure that Filho will be right there with them, ushering in the next generation of Brazilian superstars.
And even though his star continues to rise, Filho shows the graciousness that continues to be a hallmark of his team, when he closed out the interview by saying, “Thank you, thanks to the fans.”