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By: Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief
Fabricio Werdum returns home to Brazil this weekend, taking on Mike Russow at UFC 147. The Brazilian made a successful return to the organization earlier this year with a three round, one-sided win over Roy Nelson at UFC 143 in February.
That fight was his first in the UFC since his 2008 knockout loss to a then-unknown Junior dos Santos. A contract dispute with the UFC led to his release, and he would head to Strikeforce for a four-fight stint until that organization was purchased by Zuffa, with the heavyweight division then moved over shortly thereafter.
As he enters this fight with Russow, Werdum still has that fight with dos Santos on his mind, and it's a time in his career he won't let himself forget.
"One has to be very careful," Werdum said in an interview with MMAJunkie.com this week. "People who aren't that famous but have a long win streak, those are the ones you have to watch out for. It already happened to me in the UFC when I fought against Junior Dos Santos. He was fairly unknown at that time. He surprised me."
"I didn't underestimate him, but we met in a time in my career when I wasn't very focused I wasn't doing the right things. I didn't watch a single fight tape. I had no access to tapes. I wasn't as professional as I am today. Around this time, I was somewhat lost in life. But at the same time, that's on me only. 'Cigano' did his job as he was supposed to. So, if I wasn't training, if I wasn't focused, that's on me. That failure was mine, completely mine. I didn't watch his fights. I knew he could box but I didn't know how good he was. That's what happens. I learned a lot from that fight."
Werdum says he's very prepared for Russow, and is taking the fight very seriously as he heads back to his home country. Then, when he's finished with this fight, he has his eyes set on a rematch with dos Santos, and a stint on The Ultimate Fighter in Brazil.
"Since I'm trying to make up for lost time in my career, and since I've never been one to wait around, I took the challenge against Russow, who's nearly undefeated," Werdum said. "I've been studying him thoroughly, so I know his habits. I want to claim my place in the sport, and I'm an employee of the UFC, so I'm not one to be choosy or make demands. I have to demonstrate that I'm worth their investment.
"Every time I see 'Cigano,' I want more and more to fight him," Werdum said. "My time will come, but for now my focus remains on Mike Russow. After beating Russow, my plan is to go into the 'TUF: Brazil' house and shoot a second season opposite Dos Santos. It would be great if we could coach our own teams and then face each other at the end of the season. I'm sure that the Brazilian fans would love it. First I have to win this fight, then I can bring up my idea to the UFC."
Penick's Analysis: Werdum has been mostly successful since his release from the UFC back in 2008. Indeed, his only loss was a decision in his rematch against Alistair Overeem, and if it weren't for his attitude on his career at the time of the dos Santos fight, he could have been in a very different place in the UFC. If he can get past Russow as expected, he'll certainly be on the short list of reasonable opponents for a title fight, and if the UFC wants to put the two of them together on "The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil", they could have a very big Brazilian headliner down the line. He needs to get past Russow, but if he does, he just may get what he's hoping for.
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Jamie Penick, editor-in-chief
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