by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
Sometimes in life people need to take steps backwards before they can truly move forward in their lives. Such has been the case for Pedro “The Rock” Rizzo in recent history.

After being one of the most dominant strikers in the heavyweight division, Rizzo hit hard times, culminating in the past two years, which saw his activity level shrink, and worse, two embarrassing losses in the PRIDE organization.

But with those steps backward done, it appears as if Pedro is ready to begin taking the steps forward needed to recapture past glory, as he returned to MMA action for the first time in a year this past Saturday in Dallas, Texas, defeating fellow UFC alum Justin Eilers via Unanimous Decision at The Art of War 1.

“It was very good for me,” Rizzo said to MMAWeekly of returning to action for the first time since February 2006. “I was more than a year out of the ring, so for me it was very important to try to come back into the ring with a fight that was good, a fight that was hard.”

Pedro further commented, “I’m pretty happy with the victory, with the win and I hope I can get more fights this year and get back to the top.”

Perhaps in a sign of rejuvenation, Rizzo was very aggressive for most of the fight, and despite an injury that forced him to change tactics; he was rewarded for his assertiveness with the unanimous decision.

“I think it was a good fight,” commented Pedro. “In the first round I was just thinking about boxing and trying to knock him down. When we went to the ground, all fighters have a favorite side, and I went to my bad side, but it was [overall] good.”

“The second round went good, but at the end of the round I broke my hand. So in the third round I had to take him down and keep the fight on the ground because I couldn’t punch anymore [with my left hand],” continued Rizzo.

Pedro explained the moment the injury happened and how he compensated to ultimately get the win, “At the end of the second round I gave a high kick and then a left hook and that’s when I broke my hand. So I couldn’t punch [with that hand] anymore, so in the third round I just used elbows and the right punch.”

As for how long Rizzo may be out of action for, Pedro consulted his personal physician and it appears he can return to fighting shortly after the mid-point of the year.

“I spoke with my doctor and he said I should be right to fight again in June or July,” explained Rizzo. “I will be ready to step in the ring then because I will keep my condition up.”

Pedro added, “I’ll keep training and everything I can do, I’ll do it. Running, kicking, punching, everything I can do, I’ll keep doing because I don’t want to stop fighting.”

According to Rizzo, once he is healed there are opportunities that could be awaiting him.

“I have nothing signed yet, I’m free now,” commented Pedro. “I did get some offers, but my managers are working on this, so we’ll see.”

“We expect to fight more, 2 or 3 fights in the year and try to get back to the big show. To get back to the top and fight the best fighters, what I have to do is train, and step in the ring and beat my opponents. So that’s what I’m going to try to do,” continued Rizzo.

One thing is for sure, Pedro feels there is still a lot of gas left in his tank, and before his day is done, he hopes to be back among the pantheon of elite fighters in MMA, and he is willing to put in the work needed to get there.

“Yeah, that’s what I want,” exclaimed Rizzo. “I’m still young, I’m 32-years-old, so I still have a lot of chances to get top fights, but I still have a lot of things to do.”

Pedro furthered, “I’m hoping to get back to the top, fighting the best fighters in the top shows. All my team still trusts in me, they really feel I can be one of the best, one of the top fighters in the world, so I’m going to work on that.”

Always gracious, Rizzo wanted to thank those whom have helped him through his dark times and wants to let everyone know the book is yet to be closed on his career and that there is still more to come from “The Rock.”

“I’d like to say thanks to Nature Valley, they sponsor me, Gamma-O, and of course all my team, Marco Ruas, Beto Leitão, my boxing trainer, and my physical trainer,” said Pedro. “I say thanks to all those guys because they always trust in me, even when I was in the worst part my career – the last three years – they were always at my side. So I’m glad trust in me and I think I can replay all of them for their trust in me when I get back to the top.”

“To the fans, keep patient, I will get to the top, I will work really hard and I really want to fight to show everybody that I’m still one of the best, top fighters in the world. Every time I get into the ring, I’m going to go for a knockout or submission. I will fight hard and make a big war in the ring,” concluded Rizzo.

*Special thanks to Debi Purcell for her invaluable assistance with this article.*