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Fighter in transition – PRO MMA exclusive interview: Vinny Magalhaes

At only 24-years-old, Vinicius “Vinny” Magalhães has already accomplished more than the average man ever will. Born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, bred on the mats of the Gracie Tijuca Academy under the tutelage of the son of Helio Gracie, the BJJ world was his playground. After years of dominating grappling tournaments and winning championships, in 2006, Vinny began the transition into professional MMA.

He had a few fights and then in 2008 he became a contestant on The Ultimate Fighter season 8: Team Nogueira vs. Team Mir. Vinny made it to the finals but lost to Ryan Bader with a first round TKO. He had one more fight in the Octagon at UFC 97 in April 2009 and gave up a unanimous decision to Eliot Marshall. Following that fight, and after just two losses, Vinny was released from the UFC.

Like a grappler transitioning from side mount to full mount, realizing what he needed to do and ready to attack the world of MMA the same way he did BJJ, Vinny has left his homeland of Brazil to come to the U.S., to the city that flows with MMA and honey, Las Vegas.
PRO MMA (promma.info) spoke to Vinny on Monday about this drastic move and what the future may hold for the young Brazilian.

PRO MMA: Hello Vinny, thank you for taking the time to speak with us at PRO MMA (promma.info). For those who may not be familiar with your background, could you please talk about your BJJ background, the BJJ school you come from in Rio de Janeiro, and how you got started with BJJ / MMA.
VINNY MAGALHAES: I’m a first degree BJJ Black Belt Under the Jiu-Jitsu Legend Royler Gracie. I started training BJJ in September of 1998 with some of my friends at the condo where I used to live. Once I started to hit a certain level of Jiu-Jitsu I decided to train in a better place, with better instructors, so i could improve faster, then went to the Gracie Tijuca Academy (Gracie Humaita) and Started to train Under Professor Vinicius Aieta and Royler Gracie.

PRO MMA: Could you please talk about where you studied BJJ in Brazil (Gracie Humaita in Rio de Janeiro) who were your teachers there and the impact Gracie Jiu-Jitsu has had on your life.
VINNY MAGALHAES: The main instructors at our gym were Royler, Vini Aieta and Saulo Ribeiro. Since I started to train under those guys my Jiu-Jitsu started to get so much better, and I can pretty much say that after I’ve seen how fast I was improving training under those guys, I was sure that I wanted to do that for a living. I don’t know if I would still be doing Jiu-jitsu if I wasn’t good at it. I’m a competitor, so the positive results definitely keep me motivated to keep doing what I do, and believe or not (especially looking at my record), that’s what keeps me motivated to keep fighting MMA, because I know that my potential for MMA is as high as it is for Jiu-Jitsu, I just have to make some adjustments here and there, but once these adjustments are made, I know I will be a huge trouble for anybody.

PRO MMA: I’m glad to hear you say that. I understand you just moved to Las Vegas. How long have you been living in Vegas now and why did you decide to make this move at this point in your career; why now?
VINNY MAGALHAES: I literally just moved to Vegas, I’ve been here for about three weeks now. The reason why I decided to move to Vegas was to be able to train full time, as any pro fighter is supposed to do. Since I left TUF, I’ve been teaching more than training, not that I wanted it to be that way, but I didn’t have another option since I had some bills to pay. So after losing to Eliot Marshall (even though, I thought I won), I decided to give up teaching at least temporarily. I had 11 months from TUF to my fight against Eliot, which out of those 11 months I only had a chance to train for four months (3 months for Bader’s fight , and 1 month to train for Eliot’s fight). Honestly, I had great camps for both fights, but all that time that I took off, I could have used to improve the other skills that I still lack. So yeah… That was a bad way to learn (after losing 2 fights), but I learned…

PRO MMA: Was it hard for you to leave your home gym in Brazil and were they sad to see you leave?
VINNY MAGALHAES: Honestly, It really sucks to leave friends and stuff, but I am still part of that team. I will always be Gracie Humaita, no matter where I go, no matter where I train. I really miss training with my friends and I’m pretty sure they miss having me there to train also.

PRO MMA: What advantages do you feel moving to Vegas and training with Xtreme Couture will give you?
VINNY MAGALHAES: Xtreme Couture is simply the best MMA gym that I’ve ever trained at. We have great fighters, such as Forrest Griffin, Stephan Bonnar, Randy, etc… and great coaches there as well (Ron Frazier, Shawn Tompkins, Nik Fekete). Most of the guys are really good at striking and of course a lot of them are great wrestlers, so I guess I couldn’t pick a better place to train, because those are exactly the departments that I need more work on (striking and wrestling). I honestly think that this was the best move that I could have ever made, as for “save” my MMA career. I think that training full time with all these high level guys will make a much better fighter.

PRO MMA: Is there a possibility you could be one of Xtreme Couture’s new BJJ trainers or will you teach somewhere else?
VINNY MAGALHAES: I would love to be the Xtreme Couture’s BJJ Coach, but they already have a guy teaching there and I just signed with the Tapout Training Center to be their BJJ/MMA Instructor.

PRO MMA: Any chance you may train some with your coach from The Ultimate Fighter Frank Mir in Vegas?
VINNY MAGALHAES: I trained with Frank a few times after I left TUF. If my schedule permits I will definitely be training with him.

PRO MMA: A person you defeated him in BJJ, Robert Drysdale, used to be the BJJ coach at Xtreme Couture. Have you seen Drysdale since moving to Vegas, and what is your opinion of Robert?
VINNY MAGALHAES: The last time I saw Robert was when I was training for my fight against Bader. Robert was one of our assistant coaches on TUF and since then we started to build a good relationship. I trained at his gym once and sparred with him a couple times at Xtreme Couture, He’s a nice guys and is definitely one of the best guys that I ever rolled with. I haven’t seen him since he opened his own school though, I guess he’s really busy now.

PRO MMA: I wanted to ask you about your time on The Ultimate Fighter. There was an incident where “Big Nog” Rodrigo Nogeuira who was coaching the other team became upset with you. Could you explain what happened and why he was upset?
VINNY MAGALHAES: Nothing actually happen… That was just something that was made up by his guys, and he didn’t even waste his time approaching me the way I thought he should have done. He didn’t ask me if what was said to him was true or not, he just started to accuse me of doing something that I actually had not done.

PRO MMA: What is your relationship like with “Big Nog” now? Have you spoke to him since the show and are you still friends? What is your opinion of Nogueira as a fighter, as a BJJ player, and do you think he is still one of the top heavyweights in the world in MMA?
VINNY MAGALHAES: We don’t have any kind of relationship now days… I actually tried to call and left him messages a couple times, but never had an answer back from him. Even though, I didn’t do the thing that he was told I did, I still wanted to talk to him just to clear things up, after all, Nogueira was and still is a great inspiration for me. And yes, I still think that he’s one of the top guys in the world, his body might be getting old, but skill-wise there are not many guys out there anywhere near to his skills.

PRO MMA: What is next for you Vinny? Do you plan to continue competing in MMA or will you concentrate on BJJ? Have you been talking with any MMA promotion and when could we see you fighting next? Any opponents named or fights coming up for you in MMA or BJJ?
VINNY MAGALHAES: I don’t have plans for BJJ anymore. Will I ever compete in BJJ? Yes, probably, but I won’t make plans for it. My focus now is on my MMA career, that’s where I feel like I need to prove myself. As for talking to other organizations, or when I’m fighting next, this is all up to my managers. I wish I had already fought, since my last fight, but these last couple months I’ve been dealing with opponents backing out before fights and events getting postponed, so I don’t really know…

PRO MMA: I know that Grapplers Quest in association with the UFC is holding a professional grappling tournament for UFC 100 in Las Vegas. Will you be competing in that?
VINNY MAGALHAES: As I said, I’m not focused in my grappling career at this moment, but yes, I’m planning on competing in that event. Brian Cimins (Grapplers Quest President) is trying to set up a super match for me on that weekend. He already gave a couple names, both are ADCC Veterans and both have fought for the UFC.

PRO MMA: What is your relationship like with Dana White and the UFC at this point? Could we see you back in the Octagon one day and would you like to fight for them again?
VINNY MAGALHAES: I loved fighting for the UFC, and that’s my next goal in my MMA career: get back to the UFC and prove that I can do way better than I did at the first time I was there. I don’t think that the doors are closed for me, I’m still young, I know I’m talented and think I’m marketable, so I’m not worried about if I will or won’t ever get back to the UFC, because I believe that after I get some fights under my belt and some more experience they will bring me back.

PRO MMA: Were you surprised when you got the news from the UFC that you were being released? Was it a big disappointment for you?
VINNY MAGALHAES: Yes, it was a huge disappointment. but It was expected. I don’t think that UFC doubts my skills, but after losing two fights in a row being on the toughest division in the UFC, I couldn’t have expected anything different. Plus there are guys in the UFC with over 20 fights and really good records that aren’t make as much money as I was from UFC, so that could have been another reason for them to release me. It’s not good business to pay that much money for a guy who’s coming from two losses and has a bad record, no matter how skilled or good looking he is. (laughs)

PRO MMA: So what are your plans Vinny, you are still very young,, what do you want to achieve and what are your ultimate goals?
VINNY MAGALHAES: As I said, I’m planning on getting a lot of fights now, I want to get a lot of fights in smaller shows to fix my record and get some more experience, and as I already mentioned I really want to go back to the UFC. So I will do whatever it takes to get back in the UFC, and even more important: stay there. And of course, once I’m back in the UFC my goal will be being a top contender, and i honestly think that I can make that happen.

PRO MMA: I know you have a lot of fans out there who are looking forward to seeing you get back in the cage or ring, what would you like to say to them?
VINNY MAGALHAES: First off, I would like to say that I’m sorry if I disappointed my fans in my last two fights, both times I went there to do my best, but things didn’t happen how I expected. I think I learned a lot from those two fights. Well… two things that I learned for sure were : to keep my hands up (against Bader) and Canadian Judges don’t know anything about MMA (against Eliot). (laughs) But being serious… I really learned from those two losses, so I hope that those that were supporting me while I was in the UFC keep supporting until and after I get back there.

PRO MMA: Thank you Vinny. Would you like to call anyone out, send any shout-outs or thank any sponsors or anyone?
VINNY MAGALHAES: I’d love to call someone out, but I will skip that for now. (laughs) I’d like to thank Denaro Sports for taking care of my career, thank my sponsor Juan Sanchez (Combat-Clothing.com) for always supporting me (even when I was fighting in Tijuana for couple hundred bucks) and of course all the fans that are always sending me positive messages on my Myspace (www.myspace.com/tqbjj).

By:  Jack Bratcher

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