Pedro Rizzo has been doing his part to help further combat sports among Brazilian youth.
Since 2016, the former UFC heavyweight contender has led a social project called “Usina de Campeões,” where more than 300 children from the slums of Rio de Janeiro have the opportunity to train six different martial arts styles. The most talented among those kids might get the opportunity to train on the professional MMA team some day alongside the likes of UFC fighters Raoni Barcelos and Warlley Alves.
"Everything that I have conquered in my life is because of martial arts,” said Rizzo, who works six days a week coordinating the project. “I can't describe how happy I´m for being able to help so many children to escape from drug dealing and criminal life thru martial arts.”
Rizzo was also able to discuss the current state of the heavyweight division, including the recent championship clash at UFC 260, with Sherdog.com.
“I have to admit that I was expecting [Stipe] Miocic to keep the title. I thought he would take more risks in order to get [Francis] Ngannou in the groundm but he didn´t,” Rizzo said. “Of course Francis deserves all the credit, but I still see Miocic as a more well-rounded fighter and if he used a less predictable strategy, he would have kept the belt.”
Although Jon Jones has been in contentious talks with the UFC for a move to heavyweight and a fight with Ngannou, Rizzo doesn’t think “Bones” is the right man to neutralize the current champion.
“Jones used to have problems with fighters of similar range, as we could see against [Alexander] Gustafsson and [Dominick] Reyes. Even gaining some weight, he is not a natural heavyweight with one-punch knockout power. I truly believe that if Daniel Cormier is able to get in shape again, he would be the worst matchup for Ngannou,” Rizzo said.
Cormier retired following a loss to Miocic in a trilogy bout at UFC 252 in August 2020 and hasn’t expressed interest in a comeback since then. Nonetheless, Rizzo pointed out a couple of examples of Cormier’s previous victories that would bode well for him in a hypothetical matchup with Ngannou.
“Good examples of that are his fight against Derrick Lewis and both against Anthony Johnson, two beasts with impressive knockout power, and neither could stay on their feet for too long against DC,” Rizzo said. “Cormier just doesn’t accept the standup fight, that´s why I believe he would be such a bad matchup for Ngannou.”
Rizzo also discussed his student, Barcelos, who is slated to face Timur Valiev at a UFC event on June 26.
“To tell you the truth, I´m still very upset because I thought Raoni was finally going to get a ranked opponent after five impressive wins, but it was not the case yet,” Rizzo said. “His manager, Jorge Guimarães, says that most ranked opponents didn’t want to fight him and Sean O'Malley, who has the same number of [UFC] wins as Raoni, didn’t answer his challenge on Twitter.”
Rizzo’s primary goal now is to keep Barcelos motivated as he prepares for Valiev.
“Besides being the most complete and intelligent fighter I´ve ever worked with, Raoni is such a hard worker. I need to control his passion,” Rizzo said.
Rizzo has not yet gotten into game planning for Valiev, but he remains confident Barcelos will prevail regardless of what might show up on film.
“I just got the news that [Barcelos] will face this guy. I haven’t even had time to study him,” Rizzo said. “But I´m sure Raoni is able to win. He is the portrait of Ruas Vale Tudo philosophy. I have no doubt he is able to beat every opponent in the bantamweight division and get the UFC belt.”