Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
2005 has been a very good year for the Brazilian Top Team. The majority of the team finished with winning records and there’s still one show to go. On New Year’s Eve both Murilo Bustamante and Ricardo Arona have the opportunity to claim two titles in one night at Pride’s Shockwave 2005.

Shortly before leaving for Japan to corner the BTT fighters, Co-Founder and Team Leader Mario Sperry spoke to MMA Weekly to discuss the past year, Shockwave, and what’s on tap for the BTT in 2006.

MMA Weekly: Firstly Mario, we know that Ricardo Arona and Murilo Bustamante are confirmed for Shockwave 2005, but Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira hasn’t been. Can you update us on his possible participation on New Year’s Eve?

Mario Sperry: We are still negotiating, maybe he’s going to be fighting then. Has going to fight Zulu but now he is fighting Fedor (Emelianenko), then he was then going to fight Fabricio Werdum, but then he got hurt. So we’re still waiting for Pride to make a decision concerning an opponent. We are ready to leave and he’s going to go (to Japan) without an opponent.

MMA Weekly: All right, let’s talk about the fighters who are going to be fighting on the show. First off let’s discuss Murilo Bustamante. He will be fighting Dan Henderson for the Pride Welterweight GP Championship. Tell us your thoughts on this rematch.

Mario Sperry: Dan Henderson is always a dangerous fighter, no matter who he is fighting, he’s very big and strong and has good wrestling basics. He’s very well prepared, like Randy Couture, he’s very well prepared and will have good gameplans. I think Murilo has to be very careful in the beginning of the fight because that’s where Henderson is pretty good. At the very beginning of the fight he’s very strong, so Murilo must be careful just in the very beginning.

MMA Weekly: So the plan is to wait until the later stages of the fight for Murilo to make his move?

Mario Sperry: Yes I think he has more chances if he takes care the first five minutes where he has to be very careful because Henderson likes to finish the fight at the very beginning. After that his surprise element is going to be finished and then he’s going to cool down a little bit and that’s when the fight will be even and that’s when Murilo has the advantage. He’s very technical and has better boxing and ground skills and that’s where he can put some things together against Henderson. Still, it’s going to be a very hard fight.

MMA Weekly: Next up Ricardo Arona, who will also be rematching Wanderlei Silva, this time for the Pride Middleweight Championship. Are you going to try to use the same gameplan that was successful against Wanderlei the first time for this fight?

Mario Sperry: What we’ve been planning was the same thing in the last fight, the plan we have is that we have to wait for him (Wanderlei). You have to wait for Wanderlei; you cannot go after him because that’s where he feels more comfortable. So I think we have to play it like wait for him and see what he’s going to do. If he waits, we wait, if he attacks Arona that’s what we want because it’s going to be easier to take him down and use Arona’s Jiu-Jitsu to win the fight.

MMA Weekly: So we won’t be seeing Arona exchanging during this fight like he did against Dean Lister and Kazushi Sakuraba in the Middleweight GP?

Mario Sperry: Of course not, he can throw some punches, kicks, knees, but of course he won’t be exchanging strikes, doing Muay Thai or boxing against Wanderlei. I think it’s better if he can take the fight to the ground if he can, but he doesn’t need to hurry up to do that.

MMA Weekly: Okay, let’s discuss some of the other fighters on the team that the fans have seen this year. Firstly Antonio Rogerio Nogueria, he had a good run in the Middleweight GP, losing in the semi-finals to eventual GP Champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. When will we see Rogerio next?

Mario Sperry: Rogerio is anxious to fight and supposedly he’s going to be used at the beginning of next year. He would like another fight against Shogun (Mauricio Rua) because the last one was a great fight and Shogun used a very good strategy against Rogerio, but we are not very happy with the end. We would like to try again and change a little bit of our strategy and it could be a great fight again.

MMA Weekly: Next is Paulo Filho, who last fought in the alternate bout of Pride’s Welterweight GP, defeating Ryuta Sakurai. What’s next for Paulo?

Mario Sperry: He’s in great shape and training hard. Murilo “Ninja” (Rua) from Chute Boxe challenged him in the Brazilian media here. In Brazil it’s a big thing that everybody is talking about, so maybe this fight can happen soon. So he’s training hard, he’s strong, he’s got a lot of endurance, technically-wise he’s very, very good. He’s ready for any shows, Pride, UFC, whatever, anyone invites him, he’ll be ready.

MMA Weekly: Let’s talk about the lightweight fighters of the BTT now, first Luiz “Buscape” Firmino. Currently he’s a free agent; can you update us what could be Buscape’s next move?

Mario Sperry: We are waiting for shows to invite him because he has no contract with Pride. We are trying to get him on other shows like Cage Rage and some in Brazil. It is hard because he’s used to fighting in Japan and his price is kind of high for those shows. But we shall see, if he stays 2-4 months without fighting he’ll have to go down (in price) and fight on any show he can.

MMA Weekly: This past year Milton Viera made his Pride debut in the Bushido. I know recently that he’s been fighting in another Japanese organization, can you tell us about his activities?

Mario Sperry: He fought in Deep in Japan and had two fights after Bushido. One fight he won by decision, the other he lost by decision. He’s doing a lot and training hard and we’re hoping he can fight many times in Japan or even America next year.

MMA Weekly: Let’s talk about some of the young up and coming talent with the BTT that people may not be familiar with right now. I know recently Fabiano Capoani had a successful bout at AFC 14, tell us what’s up next for him and the other up and coming members of the BTT.

Mario Sperry: Yes Fabiano is one of my students from Brazil, he’s in great shape and is going to be fighting Travis Wiuff in February for a belt. Also there’s Alexandre Cacareco, who’s also in tremendous shape and is supposed to fight on March 18th against Alistair Overeem in England on a new show, Cage Fighting Championship. We have this guy called Rosimar, he’s got very good skills on the ground, a strong punch, he’s about 88 kilos (194lbs), and he’s winning everything in submission wrestling here. Next year maybe we can get him in Jungle Fight and then maybe go to the USA or Japan, you’ll see this guy is a monster.

MMA Weekly: Overall how would you say 2005 fared for the BTT?

Mario Sperry: I think it was a very good year. The only hard loss was with Arona, if Arona could have gotten that title we’d be in better position. But he took second place; Rogerio was third in the GP, so we are happy they got far in the GP. We have now this opportunity at the end of the year to win two belts on the same day. I think we had a great year with national submission tournaments this year and we’ve been winning mostly all the tournaments here. We did well in Jungle Fight and Meca Vale Tudo also here in Brazil, so it’s been a great, great year for us.

MMA Weekly: What kind of goals do you have set for 2006?

Mario Sperry: Next year we hope to fight in the Heavyweight GP with Minotauro and get to the finals again and get a belt. Minotauro is training hard for that also. I am focused on the new fighters and trying to help them get some space on shows here in Brazil and abroad. We’re going to keep on training hard for the young fighters coming up so they can show what they can do.

MMA Weekly: Before we head out let’s talk about you as well, when will we see you in the ring again?

Mario Sperry: You know the funny thing is this year I trained a lot, I trained the whole year and waited for a fight and each time I was supposed to fight I had a problem or I had to take care of someone. Still I have a contract with Pride, I have two fights left to be done, the contract is going to be over in March, so maybe I’ll fight at the beginning of 2006 I hope. I’m ready to get in the ring and fight, that’s the thing I most like in life, and I’m looking forward to doing that in February or even April or May.

MMA Weekly: I know you had a very good year personally with the birth of your first child.

Mario Sperry: Yes, the year was great for me. I began winning my fight in Pride in February and then the next month my daughter was born. It gave me a great, great happiness, I am very happy to have her around the house. Even today when I look at her I don’t believe she is my daughter, she gives me a lot of energy, will to keep on training, fight, to keep on helping the young fighters grow. She keeps giving me energy to lead the BTT; she’s the best thing that ever happened in my life.

MMA Weekly: Thank you as always for your time Mario, it’s greatly appreciated. Is there anything you’d like to say to as we conclude this interview?

Mario Sperry: We are hoping to have a great year next year. This year isn’t finished yet, we hope to have a great show on December 31st. I hope we get three wins with Minotauro, Arona, and Murilo Bustamante. We’re going to keep on training hard on our submissions, Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, boxing, everything to become better fighters. We will work hard to get to get as many wins, belts and trophies that we can get next year. We also want to thank the fans for their support of the BTT this year and next year as well.