by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
Few fighters in or near the 185-pound weight class have been as successful as the Brazilian Top Team’s Murilo Bustamante. From being the UFC Middleweight Champion to being a finalist in Pride’s 183-pound Grand Prix tournament last year, there are few places in the upper echelon of fighting that Bustamante hasn’t seen during his 10-year career.

Now, after taking nearly six months away from fighting to help his teammates and retool his game, Bustamante is returning as one of the favorites in this year’s 183-pound Grand Prix. When asked about his participation in the tournament, Murilo told MMAWeekly, “I’m very happy in taking part [in] the best tournament ever for this weight division.”

In the first round of the tournament, Murilo is slated to face Amar Suloev, another former UFC fighter who is now making his third appearance in Pride. Bustamante said, “I don’t care whom I’m fighting. That’s the promoter’s job.”

Amar Suloev is no stranger to the Brazilian Top Team. In 2005, Suloev lost to Bustamante’s teammate and fellow 2006 Grand Prix participant Paulo Filho via submission.

When asked what his strategy is for the Suloev fight and whether or not he has gotten some tips from Filho, Bustamante replied, “I don’t talk about my strategies. The only thing I can say is that Paulo gave me some tips and good [advice] about my opponent.”

If both Bustamante and Filho advance in the tournament, there is a possibility they could eventually be matched up against each other. While this has not yet happened in a Pride Grand Prix, Murilo feels that it’s just part of the fight game if it does end up happening in this tournament.

“We are professionals,” commented Bustamante. “There’s a possibility of facing Paulo if we both make it to the finals, but until the end of the tournament, there’s a long road…. if that happens, we will be happy for both of us and fight because that’s our job.”

Having two fighters in the tournament is a big advantage for the BTT. In fact, Bustamante feels that it may be Filho and not himself who is the most dangerous fighter in the tournament. “[We have] great chances, I believe,” said Murilo. “Paulo is the toughest opponent to everyone in the tournament.”

Bustamante continued, “We also know that fights are decided in the ring and not on favoritism. We work hard and don’t do cheap talk. Our message is spread in the ring with the best show we can put on.”

Regardless of how things turn out for the Brazilian Top Team in the Grand Prix, Murilo knows that this is the biggest tournament to ever take place in this weight class, and he wants the fans to check out Bushido: Survival on June 4th.

Bustamante concluded, “I would like to thank all the fans for their support, and I expect them to attend and watch the show. Don’t waste the opportunity to watch this GP. The best fighters in the division will be there.”