EXCLUSIVE | Vinny Magalhães Talks Silva, Sonnen, M-1 Global and His UFC Prospects
Vinny Magalhães is one of the most talked-about mixed martial artists not currently signed to a major promotion’s talent roster. The 27-year-old Brazilian has been getting attention lately for a number of reasons: (1) training consensus #2 middleweight Chael Sonnen in the lead up to his rematch with UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva, who is also Brazilian; (2) putting his M-1 Global Light Heavyweight Championship for sale on eBay after a well-publicized contractual dispute with the company and M-1 Global Director of Operations Evgeni Kogan; and (3) last but not least, going 7-1 in his last eight professional fights.
BJPenn.com caught up with Magalhães recently and asked the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu specialist when fans could expect to see him in action again.
“All these promoters have called me asking what my situation was,” said Magalhães, “and that includes the UFC and Bellator. Strikeforce asked me what my situation was. But as for signing with the UFC or signing with somebody else, there’s nothing official. When the matching period started I decided not to take any offers. I haven’t got numbers from anybody. So M-1 doesn’t have any offers to match.
“The very first day when the matching period started with M-1, I got a call and emails from the UFC. So, there is a chance that I might end up in the UFC. But I never decide to go much further with the negotiations, because once I get offers, once I get anything official from any promotions — not just the UFC — I do have to show M-1 the offers. If they match, I’m obligated to re-sign with them. So I’m not taking any offers; I’m just waiting for the matching period to end.
“I just say ‘Let’s just wait for the matching period to end so we can talk about it.’ And they’re cool with it. I still have six weeks left of the matching period.”
Magalhães was clear that the difficult contractual situation he finds himself in was forced on him by M-1 Global management.
“He [Kogan] even sent an email to my manager saying whatever offer I get, they’re gonna match just to prove a point. So that’s the thing, if I don’t get an offer, they don’t have anything to match, and there’s nothing they can do about letting me go. Once he sent that email, it was like ‘Well, I’m not going to take any offers. Thank you for telling me.’”
Magalhães initially tried to sell his M-1 Global Light Heavyweight Championship on eBay before having second thoughts.
“Even though the M-1 title doesn’t mean much in the MMA world, it was still an accomplishment. Would I sell the belt for $20,000? Probably not. $30,000? I’d think about it. $100,000? Yes. You can buy a house for $100,000. But here’s the deal, I would never sell the belt for much less than that.
“[Putting the belt on eBay], that was to make a point. Did I ruin my relationship with M-1? Probably for life. But who cares? I’m not gonna fight for those guys ever again.”
Magalhães says he has spoken to UFC President Dana White recently, though the two didn’t talk business.
“We just talked about the whole belt situation, selling the belt on eBay. He [White] thought that was funny. But there’s no discussion about business whatsoever with Dana. They [the UFC] asked me what my situation was, and that was it. There’s no offers; there’s no negotiations whatsoever.
“I don’t even know how much the UFC is gonna offer me. I don’t even know how many fights. I don’t know what the deal will be with the UFC. It really depends. You guys will see in six weeks what’s gonna happen.”
In spite of being in a state of contractual limbo until mid-July, Magalhães says he wants to fight in the UFC and eventually make a run for a title.
“The UFC, that’s where I want to be. That’s where I want to go for sure. But it’s not just about me right now. I can’t just think about myself. I also have a family to support. I have to go wherever is going to be better for me financially. But definitely the UFC is where I wanna be.
“I’m not in the UFC now, but if I do go back to the UFC, I’m not going to be one of those guys who goes back there just to be ‘another guy.’ I want to be one of the best and make a run for a title. So, why not? I feel like I have to improve much more, much more, especially if I want to be one of the best guys in the world. My goal is to fight for a title. I don’t have the goal of just being another guy in the UFC. My goal is to be one of the best, and possibly the best.”
I asked Magalhães about how he and Chael Sonnen came to work together and his decision to train Sonnen against a fellow Brazilian fighter.
“For this fight, he [Sonnen] sent an email to one of our mutual friends. And he was like ‘Do you wanna come up and help me out for this fight?’ and I was like ‘Yeah, why not?’ But here’s the thing, he’s fighting a guy from Brazil. And I’m from Brazil. So I really had to think about it a lot.
“I like the guy, but I’m not friends with Anderson [Silva]. I’ve never trained with Anderson. I don’t have any of Anderson’s friends. So I had no problem training with Chael. I’ve talked to him [Silva] maybe like once or twice, and it was ‘Hey, what’s up?’ Nothing else. It’s not like we’ve had a serious conversation. It’s not like we’re really close friends. I haven’t been to Brazil in six or seven years. I haven’t had any kind of friendship with Anderson whatsoever. So I have no problems about training Chael, no problems whatsoever.”
I couldn’t help but ask Magalhães the question that must be on many people’s minds: What’s it like to train a guy in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu who openly makes fun of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?
“Chael makes fun of a lot of things. … But he picks stuff up really fast. And the stuff that we worked on, I can guarantee you if he has the chance to use it in the fight, he will do it. If it’s a submission, if it’s a guard pass, whatever, I guarantee you he can do it. If he gets the chance, he can catch Anderson with something.
“Chael’s a pretty good grappler. Even though he’s made mistakes in his fights, overall Chael’s a good grappler. He just makes mistakes in submission defense, so pretty much that’s what we worked on. And of course some attacks, control, some of that basic stuff.
“Basically what we worked on was top game. We did work some submission defense, of course. But the best thing is not to get caught in a submission in the first place. If you’re just working submission defense, you have to first be in a submission. You don’t want to get that far. A lot of people ask me when they hear I was training Chael, ‘Why don’t you just work triangle defense?’ No! For me to teach you triangle defense, first I have to teach you how to be in a triangle. And I don’t want him to be there in the first place.”
Magalhães also talked about Anderson Silva’s Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu credentials.
“Here’s another point. A lot of people hype Anderson’s Jiu-Jitsu game because he got his black belt from the Nogueiras. But not every black belt is a high-level black belt. You just happened to have got a black belt under that guy. It’s not like he has great sweeps. It’s not like he has great submissions. How many submissions has he gotten [in the UFC]? He submitted Henderson. He submitted Chael; that’s two guys. And he submitted Travis Lutter. So that’s three guys. He’s even got a couple submission losses. They may be eight years ago, but they’re still losses. So I feel like this whole thing about Anderson being a black belt doesn’t make much of a difference in the fight.
“It’s not that I’m not impressed. People think that if you have a black belt under certain guys, it automatically means you’re excellent at it. It doesn’t mean anything though. Black belts are not always going to have black-belt skills. The whole fight with Chael, [Silva] was on his back the whole time. I’m not saying he’s not good, he just might not be as good as people think he is. He spent 23 minutes on his back [against Chael]. He should’ve got something in those 23 minutes. Yeah, he did. He got the submission. But he was trying the whole time and he couldn’t get it. So like I’m saying, it’s not like he’s not good — he is good — just not as good as people think he is.”
I asked Magalhães what he thought about Rousimar Palhares recently coming out and saying Sonnen had asked to train with him, but that he turned Sonnen down.
“Palhares’ specialty is leg locks. I don’t think that’s what Chael should be working on anyways.”
In talking about the outspoken Sonnen, Magalhães made clear that the middleweight contender was generous in paying him.
“I don’t want to talk about amounts, because my management was the one dealing with the whole money situation. But he did pay more than my management asked. We asked for a certain amount, and he came up with much more. We asked for an amount for two weeks of training, and he came up with an amount which would’ve entitled him to four weeks of training. So how can I not respect the guy? He paid me double.
Sonnen also apparently has quite a sense of humor.
“On Chael’s check … you know how they have a line for what the check is for? He wrote ‘Defeat Silva.’ So I kept a copy, because I thought that was pretty funny.”
Those who follow Magalhães on Twitter know he’s been tipping the scales at around 245 lbs. lately, in spite of fighting at 205 lbs.
“I’m walking around at 245 right now. In good shape, I’m 235. So I think light heavyweight is my division. I walk around in great shape, in fighting shape, at 235. So there’s no way I’m making middleweight anytime soon.
“I know Chael walks around at 233 and fights at middleweight, but when he’s 233, he’s not in great shape. That’s him in the off season. Him at 233 is like me at 245. So I think light heavyweight is my division. I would never fight at heavyweight unless I weighed 255 in shape. At 245, out of shape, I can easily make light heavy. I’m too small to be a heavyweight.
I asked Magalhães who he wanted to fight when he makes his much-anticipated return.
“As for who I want to fight, I don’t care. I’ll be honest, I want the easiest fights possible for the first couple of fights. I’m not one of those guys, ‘I’ll fight anybody right now. I want to fight the best.’ Nah, I want to fight the worst guys the first couple fights. Get two or three wins, and then I can call somebody out.
“Give me two or three fights, I’m pretty sure I can [make a run at 205 lbs.] I’m not one of those guys who wants to fight the toughest guys first. Who doesn’t want to fight easy fights? Why not, you know? Why not gain a few wins? When I get my numbers better, then I can start fighting the toughest opponents.”
When I asked Magalhães about his recent 7-1 streak and how much confidence it gave him, he responded with humility.
“You do build confidence, but I’ll be honest, I didn’t fight the best fighters in the world. I did fight some real tough guys, but they’re not the best guys in the world. Yeah, there’s some confidence, but that just drives me to my main goal, which is to be one of the best guys in the world, and to fight the best guys and beat the best guys. Not many people know those guys [I beat in my last 8 fights]. They’re tough guys, but they’re not the best guys in the world. And that’s who I want to fight. That’s who I want to beat.”
The humility didn’t end there. In talking about how he got his start in the UFC on The Ultimate Fighter reality show, Magalhães said he didn’t even deserve to be there.
“I got on TUF being a strictly Jiu-Jitsu guy and nothing else. So being on the finals was surprising even for myself, especially when I was going against guys who had way more experience, were way more well-rounded than me. Guys like Krzysztof [Soszynski]. To be honest with you, I didn’t even deserve to be on the show. There were guys who were way more well-rounded than me who tried out for the show, and they didn’t make it. They tried out for the show, and they didn’t pick ‘em. That’s how it is. That’s why I say I didn’t deserve to be in there. And me just being a Jiu-Jitsu guy, I’m in the finals.
“Ninety percent of the guys that do the show, they go through tryouts. I didn’t go through any tryouts. I didn’t have many fights when I got on the show. I’d had four fights, I was 2-2. I was just coming off a loss. And so it’s like why? Why should I be on the show when there are guys walking around with 7-0 records who didn’t make the show? I was fortunate to be there. Was I glad that I made the show? Yeah, I was glad that I made the show. But there were others who deserved to be there more than I did.”
I asked Magalhães why he actively communicates with his fans on Twitter while many other fighters do not. Given his contract situation with M-1 Global, he responded, “I have all the free time in the world now.”
And that may be true, at least until mid-July.
BJPenn.com would like to thank XYIENCE for its assistance with this interview.