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Ever the optimist, Nova Uniao founder Andre Pederneiras had plenty to say about his students, namely one former champion who has been with him for many years.
With many fighters scheduled at upcoming Ultimate Fighting Championship fight cards, the leader of Nova Uniao gave an exclusive interview to Sherdog on Wednesday. Like always, “Dede” was happy to talk openly about all subjects ranging from his team to his involvement with the Shooto Brazil promotion.
He first wanted to lead off with his star pupil, Jose Aldo, who has big things in mind for the bantamweight division. Former featherweight champion Aldo turned 35 earlier in the month, and he is riding a two-fight win streak over Marlon Vera and Pedro Munhoz. Aldo is currently the #7 bantamweight on the Sherdog Official Rankings, and both he and his coach had no shortage of names in mind.
“Of course, our main intention was to face [former champion T.J.] Dillashaw,” the coach began. “But we understand that he [earned] the chance to fight for the belt next. He also had surgery on his knee and will not return anytime soon. Aldo is coming from two straight wins and wants to be active; I think he deserves to face someone over him in the rankings. Rob Font said before the fight between Aldo and Munhoz that it was a very interesting combat to him, [as] if Munhoz [won] it would be great revenge to him, [and] if Aldo [won], [it] would be the biggest name he has ever faced. But what happened is that after Aldo won, he didn’t talk anything, but we already asked him for December.”
The former featherweight king, who is now finding success at 135 pounds after reigning over the 145-pound category for years, has found himself as the topic of conversation of many greats over the years. Recently, Khabib Nurmagomedov weighed in on Aldo, and even went so far as to claim that Aldo’s current run is for money, and that Aldo would never hold another title. “Dede” had some thoughts about Nurmagomedov’s comments.
“Khabib has always been an example of someone who speaks little and does a lot,” Pederneiras admitted, “but after he decided to retire and lost all the media he had for his winning, he started to say bad things not only about fighters, even ring girls he attacked. I think his goal is to remain in the media. But he [doesn’t] need to say those things.
“Actually, he refused a fight with Aldo,” the head coach continued. “It happened when he was going to fight Tony Ferguson and Aldo had defeated Frankie Edgar. [Conor] McGregor was the lightweight champion by that time, and we thought it could be a great way to get the rematch. If Aldo [beat] Khabib, Conor couldn't deny that. Unfortunately, Khabib’s team did not accept the fight. Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying Aldo would knock out or submit Khabib, I’m just saying that Nurmagomedov had the opportunity to prove everything he is saying now about Aldo, and he was the one who didn’t accept our call. Names like Aldo, Anderson [Silva] and [Georges St. Pierre] must have their legacy respected. Aldo is fighting MMA for 17 years, [and] still among [the] top five, he did 37 fights, nine title defenses if we count WEC and UFC, challenging himself in two weight divisions.”
Recently, several former UFC greats have transitioned over to boxing to end their fighting careers. Aldo once considered this as well, in the midst of his title run in 2016, but he was stopped from pursuing this path.
“When he defeated Frankie for the second time and we realized he wouldn’t have a rematch with McGregor, we asked [UFC President] Dana [White] to release him for a Boxing superfight, but Dana refused. Right in the sequence [where] he fought Holloway and lost,” Pederneiras lamented.
At Nova Uniao, Aldo was joined in the camp by former lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos, who transitioned away from Kings MMA, the Evolve MMA camp in Singapore and one he started for himself. A firm believer that “iron sharpens iron,” dos Anjos decided to team up with Aldo, Pederneiras and the rest of the greats at the Brazilian team. Dos Anjos has a fight lined up at UFC 267 on Oct. 30, where he will take on Islam Makhachev in a high-stakes lightweight affair.
“Rafael moved to Rio, initially for one year,” Pederneiras said. “He is focused on getting a title shot.”
Regarding the fight itself, Pederneiras noted that Judo is one of the main focuses of dos Anjos’ camp to beat the Russian International Master of Sport in combat sambo.
“If you analyze all those sambo guys, they go so well in MMA, because sambo is a mix of judo and wrestling,” the head coach discussed. “When they face wrestlers, they defend very well and take them down using judo techniques; if they get good judo guys, they use wrestling. When you see Islam fighting, his best throws are not wrestling techniques, but Judo. Most people who tried to wrestle with Islam or Khabib failed being thrown with Judo techniques. [In the past] Rafael trained wrestling so much in USA, [but now] we are prioritizing Judo throws in this camp.”
Pederneiras has grown a familiarity with Russia and Russian organizers as he trains his fighters to face off against their fighters. With the pandemic raging on in Brazil, as well as an economic crisis going on in the country, “Dede” explained that it is almost impracticable for him to promote Shooto events. Pederneiras and his team have worked with Shooto and the Legacy Fighting Alliance in recent memory. Of note, he helped facilitate the LFA into Rio de Janeiro in July, where the organization staged LFAs 111 and 112 on the same weekend.
“Unfortunately, the financial support Globo TV used to give us in order to make the events is not possible anymore, so my goal now is to make new partnerships and take my athletes to other events,” Pederneiras stated. “It was a great experience to support [LFA head] Ed Soares in two editions of LFA here in my arena. He loved that, and intends to make other editions in 2022.
“I’m traveling to Russia next month,” he continued. “We hope to bring a Russian promotion to Rio too. Promoting events is extremely necessary to me in order to produce news fighters. I reinvest almost all money I make with my fighters in the new generation. Today I have around 60 professionals training in [Nova Uniao], if I have only 15 of them fighting [in] international events, the other 45 unemployed won’t be coming every day to be beaten up by the 15, so I need to have events to give opportunities to the other 35 to show how they are improving and how they also deserve an opportunity. If you ask me if I like to make Shooto I’ll answer, for sure, no. But I need to make the show. If I had 50 events in Brazil to spread my athletes, for sure, I wouldn’t make it.”
Another one of those aforementioned professionals, Eduardo Dantas, is looking to make a comeback after leaving Bellator MMA in 2019. The former bantamweight champion competed under the Bellator banner 15 times over the years, and he parted ways with the league after losing three of four. A first-round submission in July at a Shooto Brazil card showed there may yet be something left in the tank of the 32-year-old nicknamed “Dudu.”
“I truly believe Dantas has the face [for] UFC,” his coach expressed. “Great striker, top black belt, very good in selling fights. I have no doubt he will be one of the stars of the bantamweight division. I’m just waiting for the UFC call. But while it does not happen, I’m trying to put him in good events that don’t ask for long contracts. But our goal is to take him to UFC. Dudu is only 32 years old and already fought MMA 29 times, being a multiple time Bellator champion. I have no doubt his time will come.”