Rodrigo Ribeiro is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu champion who holds a third degree black belt in BJJ. He is highly experienced as a mixed martial artist and has fought for shows in South America and Asia but will finally get his chance to compete on a major international promotion at ONE Fighting Championship: Battle of Heroes.
He will be in for the toughest test of his entire career against Combat Sambo World Champion Rustam Khabilov but Ribeiro also knows that if he can defeat the Russian he will instantly announce himself as one of the most dangerous fighters in the ONE FC welterweight division.
Ribeiro trains at the world renowned Evolve MMA camp in Singapore and will be dropping down to 170 for the first time after competing as a middleweight for most of his career. The Brazilian took time out from his preparations to talk with Fighters.com about his forthcoming fight in Jakarta on February 11.
Fighters.com: Khabilov has a very impressive record and is being talked about as one of the most exciting prospects in Russia, are you hoping to steal some of his momentum by beating him?
Ribeiro: For me fighting with a guy like him is a very good opportunity because he has a very good record and everyone says soon he will be one of the best welterweights in the world. If I can beat him maybe they will say that about me?
Will this be your first fight at 170lbs? Are you confident you will be as effective at the weight?
Ribeiro: Absolutely! I’m feeling good as the change is to improve my performance and I will be very strong on the day of the fight.
Rustam represents Jackson’s Submission Fighting, you represent Evolve MMA and this will be the first time that two of the best known training camps in the world are going to compete against one another. Does that make you feel any extra pressure?
Ribeiro: He trains with the number one team in America and I train with the best team in Asia so you know it is going to be an exciting and hard fought match. If a fighter is only as good as their training partners and coaches then I must be the best and I am sure my opponent feels the same way.
Has Chatri Sityodtong come up with a game plan for this fight? Are you trying to work out what game plan Greg Jackson will formulate for Rustam?
Ribeiro: I know Chatri has a great plan for this fight, he knows the game inside out and is an expert at coming up with the right strategy for every opponent. I don’t care what my opponent’s camp is thinking, all that matters to me is my own game plan which I know will be the right one.
Khabilov has a background in Combat Sambo and very good takedowns but as a BJJ champion you must be very comfortable fighting off your back, do you feel that stylistically this is a good match up for you?
Ribeiro: I don’t think any fighter wants to be on their back on the ground but if it happens I can assure you I will be prepared for the situation
How did you come to be at Evolve MMA?
Ribeiro: It was through Rafael ‘Gordinho’ Lima. I trained in Brazil with his brother, Roberto ‘Gordo’ Correa and between them they helped me to get a job at Evolve MMA in Singapore. I am very grateful to both of them for this opportunity as it is really wonderful place to work and fight in a team that is without doubt the best in Asia, and maybe the world.
Do you feel you have improved as a fighter since joining Evolve MMA?
Ribeiro: I have improved a lot and I am a completely different fighter now. Moving to welterweight was definitely the best thing for me and my striking has improved a lot too because I am working with Muay Thai world champions every day. My cardio is getting better every day too and good things are happening at this moment in my life.
You have had sixteen professional fights, do you think that having so much experience will give you an advantage over the other fighters in Asia?
Ribeiro: I know I have good experience but now all fighters have a great technical level. The advantage that I have is feeling pretty comfortable in the cage while the others who are less experienced probably get a little nervous in this situation.
How excited are you to have signed with ONE FC?
Ribeiro: I am very happy to get an opportunity to fight for the biggest MMA event in Asia, it is a dream for me. Now that I’m here it will be very hard for anyone to get me out!
You were at the first ONE FC show what did you think of that?
Ribeiro: I have been to MMA events all over the world but this was the biggest. Right then I knew I wanted to be a part of it.
If you come away with the win do you think you will be in with a chance of challenging for the ONE FC welterweight title when it is introduced?
Ribeiro: This is my only goal, to be a champion at 170 pounds.
Gregor Gracie is also competing in the welterweight division but I know he has trained at Evolve MMA, would you be willing to fight him if One FC wanted you to?
Ribeiro: I would not want to fight him but we are professionals and if he was all that was standing between me and being a champion then for sure I would fight him.
PHOTO CREDIT – EVOLVE MMA