By Kelsey Mowatt; photos courtesy M-1 Global
During the eighth season of “The Ultimate Fighter” in 2008, it appeared as though Vinny Magalhaes was on the verge of becoming one of the promotion’s top light-heavyweight prospects, as the young Brazilian fighter worked his way to the show’s finale to face Ryan Bader. Up until that point, Magalhaes had made good on the reputation that had preceded him as a world class grappler, utilizing his awe inspiring ground game to score first round submission wins over Jules Bruchez and Krzysztof Soszynski. Even with his TKO loss to Bader that December, few likely expected at the time, that Magalhaes would not be with the UFC for much longer. (Pictured: Magalhaes punching Jake Doerr at M-1 Challenge 24)
“I think a lot of people don’t realize that when I got on the show, I was with Team Quest, that doesn’t mean I was training my wrestling with Dan Henderson, training my striking with Sokoudjou and Krzysztof,” Magalhaes told FCF. “I was there as the grappling coach and that was what I was doing the most.”
Following his loss to Bader, Magalhaes faced fellow BJJ black belt Eliot Marshall four months later at UFC 97, and after losing by unanimous decision he was cut by the promotion.
“I wasn’t really training as a full time fighter,” Magalhaes added. “I was doing some grappling, I was doing some BJJ with gi, so once I got into the UFC I realized things were harder than just taking someone down or pulling guard. It took those losses to realize that I had to change how I was training.”
Despite having won multiple championships as a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competitor, including gold medals at the Mundials in 2005 and 2007, Magalhaes made the decision to focus all of his attention on MMA rather than his grappling career. The decision has paid off, as since departing from the UFC, Magalhaes has gone 5-1 and is currently riding a three fight winning streak. Most recently, at M-1 Challenge 24 on March 25th, Magalhaes pounded out previously undefeated light-heavyweight Jake Doerr in the first round, to extend his pro record to 7-5.
“I wouldn’t say that I was surprised by dropping the guy,” said Magalhaes, while discussing the improvements in his striking game. “I think the biggest thing for me before, was of course the lack of skills, but it was also the lack of strategy and the lack of confidence. Before I would go into a fight and think ‘oh, let’s hope the guy is going to take me down and I can finish him on the ground’, but most of the guys were smart enough to not take me down....I just changed my mental game, now I think I have to be the first to take him down, or I have to be the first to hit my opponent.”
|Magalhaes finishing Doerr|
The recent TKO vitory over Doerr was the second win Magalhaes has recorded fighting for M-1 Global; in December, the 26 year-old fighter tapped out Alihan Magomedov with a beautifully executed triangle-choke, armbar combo at M-1 Challenge 22. On account of his two performances thus far with the European based promotion, it appears as though Magalhaes could be competing for the vacant M-1 Global light-heavyweight belt on April 28th.
“I’m supposed to be fighting for the title; that’s what I’ve been told,” said Magalhaes while discussing what’s next. “They’re just not sure about the opponent.”
FCF confirmed with a M-1 Global official that indeed the promotion is hoping to have Magalhaes fight for its light-heavyweight belt at the upcoming “Zavurov vs. Magomedov II” card in St. Petersburg, Russia. It’s an opportunity Magalhaes is understandably excited about.
“For me it means a lot,” said Magalhaes, who currently trains out of the Xtreme Couture facility in Las Vegas. “I had a bit of a rough start to my career so to be fighting for a title now is really great. I’d like to keep the belt for a while...Now I’m taking my career very seriously, just focusing on MMA, and I think from now on people are going to really start seeing a different fighter.”