Current M-1 Global light-heavyweight champion Vinny Magalhaes is turning 2011 into a banner year.
Undefeated in three MMA fights this year, and riding a four-fight winning streak overall, Magalhaes took gold in the over 99 kilos (218 pounds) division at this year’s Abu Dhabi Submission Wrestling World Championships to add to his success inside the ring.
“It was pretty exciting, especially considering the fact that I didn’t do anything specific for the tournament, and I ended up getting out of there with the gold,” said Magalhaes. “It was pretty good results, and now my focus is on MMA.”
Magalhaes told MMAWeekly.com that he feels his success at Abu Dhabi will only pay dividends when he returns to MMA this Friday to defend his title at M-1 Challenge XXVII in Phoenix against Mikhail Zayats.
“One thing for sure is that my jiu-jitsu is going to be pretty sharp for this fight,” he said. “There’s no way my jiu-jitsu is going to be bad after competing in Abu Dhabi against the best in the world.”
Recent successes aside, Magalhaes defending his M-1 title is not as big of a motivating factor for Friday’s fight that some might think it may be.
“To be honest with you – and I don’t want anyone getting mad at me for saying this – it is not as important as getting on a winning streak,” he said.
“It is important for me to keep my belt and all that stuff, but the main goal for my career is to fix those bad numbers and for people to forget that bad fighter I was two, three years ago.”
At M-1 Challenge, Magalhaes faces a former Sombo and European jiu-jitsu champion in Zayats, leading one to wonder if he feels the fight will be mostly a ground-based affair, or if things could end up elsewhere.
“I’ve seen a few of his fights, and most of the fights he took to the ground, but you ever know,” said Magalhaes. “The whole ‘let’s keep things standing with Vinny’ was said by Jake Doerr in my last fight for Showtime; he tried to keep it standing and I dropped him.
“I don’t think he’s going to try to take the risk and try to bang things out with me; he’s going to do what he’s good at, which is the ground game. I think the fight will eventually go to the ground, and when it does, I’ll have the clear advantage.”
From here, the goal for Magalhaes is simple, keep winning and prove to anyone that had written him off after his troubles in the UFC that he is a new fighter and someone to be reckoned with at 205 pounds.
“I feel like hopefully I can get in this fight and fight again next month,” he said. “My goal is to have five more fights within the next six months and get five wins so I can be respected more.
“Getting five more wins would give me a good winning streak and people will have to respect it somehow. Now I think it’s my time to show people that they were wrong (about me a couple years ago).”