Reality has begun to sink in for Fabricio Werdum.
Werdum surrendered the Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight title in a knockout loss to Stipe Miocic at UFC 198 on May 14 in Curitiba, Brazil. The defeat snapped a six-fight winning streak for “Vai Cavalo,” who was felled by a right hook from the backpedaling Miocic 2:47 into round one at Arena de Baixada. Having returned to his home in Los Angeles, Werdum has since started the process of picking up the pieces.
In this exclusive interview with Sherdog.com, the 38-year-old former champion made no excuses regarding his first loss since 2011, reiterated his hope for an immediate rematch and put forth his belief that his being dethroned was good for the heavyweight division:
Sherdog.com: Right after your defeat, many people accused you of having lost focus against Miocic. They said you were more concerned with handing out “happy face” masks, paying homage to Ayrton Senna and having your mother at Octagonside for the first time. Do you think all those external forces were harmful to you?
Werdum: A lot of people criticized me, saying I did a lot of clowning and forgot about the fight, but as I said before, that’s my way. Some people like to trash talk. I promote fights by being myself. I was really impressed with how much the happy face helped to promote the event; there was a campaign on Twitter that helped people in the hospital, and I was really moved by that. After the fight, I donated my gloves to help people with serious diseases. I don’t feel bad about my happy face, my jokes or being myself. Most importantly, I never disrespected my opponent. I had won six straight fights doing my happy face, so it’s not fair to say my defeat was because of it. I lost because Miocic was better that night, and I’m not going to change who I am because of one loss.
Sherdog.com: With that said, you admit that your anxiety level was higher than normal for this fight. Do you feel like that impacted your performance?
Werdum: As I said at the press conference, I’m used to fighting with people cheering against me. Fighting at home at such a historical event in front of 45,000 people in a soccer stadium, paying homage to my idol Ayrton Senna, having my mom come see me fight inside the Octagon for the first time ... of course, my anxiety was above normal. In Mexico, for example, I was so focused [on the fight with Cain Velasquez] that I don’t remember seeing anyone on the way to the cage. I really wanted to give a great performance in Curitiba. The way I openly attacked and tried to finish the fight fast was probably good for my opponent. I can’t say now if it was anxiety or a technical mistake, but the credit goes to Miocic. He was better and deserved to win. That’s all.
Sherdog.com: What was it like to have 45,000 people screaming your name and then have them go silent?
Werdum: It’s difficult to describe the emotions. When I fought Velaquez, most of the audience in Mexico was against me. When I fought Fedor [Emelianenko] in San Jose, [California], the whole arena supported him. When I fought [Antonio Rodrigo] “Minotauro” [Nogueira] in Brazil, he was one of the biggest legends in MMA history, so everybody supported him. This really was the first time I’ve had the whole crowd on my side, and it was the third largest crowd in UFC history and the largest crowd in that arena. The UFC beat soccer’s numbers in Curitiba. More than 20,000 people packed local hotels, and that was more than they had for the World Cup, so it was the biggest event ever in Curitiba. I got really sad after the fight, not only for losing and giving up the belt but mainly for disappointing the crowd. Fans all across Latin America were amazing to me. They supported me the whole time on social media and when they met me in person after the fight. It’s definitely pushing me to return to the gym and come back stronger.
Sherdog.com: What do you remember about the moment you got hit?
Werdum: Miocic was clever. He waited for the right moment and connected with a perfect punch that turned off the light switch. I had never been knocked out that way. I have no injuries, no bruises, no pain anywhere. He hit the perfect spot on my chin, and that’s it. As I said, there are no excuses. There were “trainers” from all over the world saying I should have taken him down and used my jiu-jitsu. I tried, but he defended well. Maybe I could have later, but I was comfortable in the standup. I wasn’t going to pull him into my guard.
Sherdog.com: You said afterward at the press conference that you are a better fighter than Miocic. Do you still feel that way?
Werdum: I don’t want to look arrogant for saying that. He was better that night and deserves the belt he’s carrying now, but I truly believe I’m a more well-rounded fighter than Miocic and I’ll prove it by fighting a different fight when we meet again.
Sherdog.com: Did you talk to your team after the fight?
Werdum: Not yet. Master Rafael Cordeiro is still in Brazil. Unfortunately, his mother died two days before the fight, and that was a big shock. He was really professional and stayed by my side the whole time.
Sherdog.com: What’s the next step?
Werdum: An immediate rematch would be in order after everything I did in the division and after six straight wins. I hadn’t lost since I returned to the UFC. A chance at revenge would be fair, but that’s not up to me. [Alistair] Overeem just had a great fight and knocked out [Andrei] Arlovski in impressive fashion. We also have Travis Browne against Velasquez [at UFC 200], and I think Velasquez will win. [Junior] “Cigano” [dos Santos] just won [against Ben Rothwell], but he had some defeats before that, so I don’t think he deserves it.
Sherdog.com: Dos Santos did ask to face you again. What are your thoughts on that?
Werdum: I thought his goal was to win the title, but it looks like his goal is to fight me. I have no problem with that, but there are a lot of interesting rematches that may sound more interesting to the UFC. That’s not my decision. Of course, the loss [to Miocic] was bad for me, but there’s no doubt it was good for the heavyweight division. Things are pretty mixed up right now.
Sherdog.com: What if the UFC does not give you an immediate rematch?
Werdum: I want to get a title shot as soon as possible, and I’ll work hard for it. If they want to give me one more fight before I get my shot at revenge, I want to fight in July or August. In the case of an immediate rematch, I can wait a little longer.
Sherdog.com: Who do you think is most deserving of the title shot?
Werdum: After myself, I’d say Overeem. “Cigano” won a fight by decision after some losses. Overeem was spectacular with that head kick on Arlovski.
Leonardo Fabri contributed to this interview.