Vinny Magalhaes on upcoming M-1 title fight and most important goal – exclusive interview

BJJ black belt Vinny Magalhaes. Photo credit: SpikeTV

Coming into MMA as an accomplished jiu-jitsu artist and grappler, Vinny Magalhaes (7-5, 1-NC) fought his way to The Ultimate Fighter season eight finale but came up short against Ryan Bader (12-1).

Following his loss to Bader, Magalhaes lost again at UFC 97 and left the organization with a 2-4 professional record.

While being told by some he should just give up MMA and stick to grappling, a determined Magalhaes continued to train and fight in order to prove his critics wrong.

Now 26-years-old, Magalhaes has turned his record around, is currently on a three fight win streak and is also on the precipice of possibly earning his first championship title.

This Thursday, April 28, Magalhaes will take on Viktor Nemkov (10-2) for the vacant M-1 Light Heavyweight Title at M-1 Challenge 25 in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Vinny spoke with‘s Josh Cross this past week about Nemkov, how the two match-up, his training and what winning the M-1 205-pound title would mean to him.

In addition, Vinny discussed his goals for the future, the possibility of returning to the UFC and the one thing that is most important to him in his career right now.

PRO MMA NOW: This upcoming fight will take place just barely over a month since you last stepped in the cage. How do you feel about fighting so soon, and how do you feel physically going into this fight?

VINNY MAGALHAES: Honestly that was my whole deal with M-1, the reason why I signed with them. Also because they signed a deal with Showtime, they were talking about that even before I signed with them, and M-1 is also like a big promotion. Now there’s only like UFC and Strikeforce, Bellator and M-1. Considering the fact that there’s no MMA in Japan anymore so that’s one of the reasons. Another reason was that they would let me fight like pretty much whenever I want. So I want to get myself back especially after taking like a whole year off last year because of my knee injury.  I think that M-1 had the best offer, because had I signed with another promotion except for Bellator, because they had the tournament, but any other promotion I would have been fighting only like three or four times a year and that’s not what I wanted. I wanted to fight at least like six to eight times this year, and M-1 could do that for me. As for my training, nothing really changed. I’ve pretty much been in the training camp since my last fight in December.

PRO MMA NOW: How is your training camp going in preparation for this fight?

VINNY MAGALHAES: Nothing much different than I did for the last fight except that you know now when I do my one-on-one training with my Muay Thai trainer we just do a bunch of rounds, not longer rounds, but a longer workout. Before I was doing five rounds for a three five minute round fight and now I do like eight rounds. Other than that everything else is the same. The only thing is that I had upped my Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training with Robert Drysdale.

PRO MMA NOW: How much do you know about your opponent going into this fight?

VINNY MAGALHAES: I’ve seen like six of his fights and most of them he pretty much has the same strategy, you know if he doesn’t get the takedown he doesn’t mind getting taken down since he has good ground game, bottom game as well. We actually have pretty similar styles. So it’s like we’re very similar so that makes both of us really dangerous so I cannot make mistakes, but I feel like I have a real advantage when it comes to the ground game, and standing up it might be about the same level. There’s nothing that I’m so worried about but of course I’ve just got to respect him but I don’t feel like he’s that much better than me when it comes to standup.

PRO MMA NOW: Now does that mean that you would prefer the fight stay standing or does it not matter to you if it goes to the ground?

VINNY MAGALHAES: There’s not a preferred one but you know I wouldn’t mind to keep the fight standing, but of course like I said, I want to take the fight to the ground, that’s where I know I can finish the fight.  Stand up is going to be more like whatever happens, happens, but when it goes to the ground I have confidence in my game so if I was to take it to the ground I can keep the control there and eventually get a submission.

PRO MMA NOW: What would winning the M-1 Light Heavyweight Championship mean personally for you and your career?

VINNY MAGALHAES: Being one of the biggest promotions now, it’s going to mean a lot. I’m sure it’s going to get like all the people’s attention. As for me, after having a whole year off, coming back and getting four wins in a row and eventually becoming the champion it’s going to mean a lot to me, especially for someone who started their MMA career pretty bad like I did. Being respected is going to mean a lot more to me than you know the criticism that I used to get when I first started. I ended up leaving the UFC with a 2-4 record and at that time people were just saying, “Oh Vinny, you should just give up MMA.” And you know now a days I’m getting totally different feedback. Now people are saying that I’m improving and that if I keep improving I can get against top guys so you know it’s going to mean a lot. The biggest thing for me now, even though the title is going to be important, the biggest thing for me is to change my record and make people realize that the only thing that happened in the past is that I was not prepared to fight MMA. That doesn’t mean that I couldn’t change and that I couldn’t become a better fighter.

PRO MMA NOW: After this fight, where do you see your career going forward?

VINNY MAGALHAES: Again, winning this fight I’m still going to have like a bad record in my mind. It’s going to be like 8-5 with one no-contest, and that’s not a great record by any means so my main goal is honestly not to be the M-1 champion, but my main goal is to fix my record. Fixing my record while I’m the champion, that’s going to mean a lot. As for what’s going to happen after that, I don’t know. I have like five more fights left with M-1, I want to do my next five fights with M-1 and possibly renew it. It depends on how they’re going to take care of me. It depends on what kind of offers I’ve got after these five fights. So for now I’m just thinking about getting my win and that’s pretty much it. I’m not thinking much ahead.

PRO MMA NOW: We’re in the middle of the current season of The Ultimate Fighter. Now the current requirement is that a fighter must have at least three professional fights before they can be on the show.  You’ve been somewhat critical of that requirement saying that it should be raised and that the fighters should have more experience in the cage before they’re cast on the show. Can you talk about that more and how your own personal experience on the show factors into that?

VINNY MAGALHAES: You can tell when the guy is comfortable at fighting and when the guy makes amateur mistakes. For myself it took like 10 fights to sort of feel comfortable when I would step in a cage. So I feel like three fights just aren’t enough especially nowadays you get a lot of guys that don’t have any background in any sport that just start MMA and a year or two later they want to start fighting professionally. Those guys aren’t going to do well in the sport. Like me, even though I had a background in Jiu-Jitsu I couldn’t just like jump into MMA without doing everything else, so I think like 10 fights should be a requirement for sure. After 10 fights you can tell if the guy is going to do well or not, but I don’t honestly think that’s the main goal for the producers. The main thing for them is having entertaining guys, so the main thing is not to have the best fighters but to get ratings, so it’s kind of hard to tell.

PRO MMA NOW: Do you see yourself back fighting with the UFC anytime in the future?

VINNY MAGALHAES: Again, my goal is to finish my contract with M-1 and possibly renew it again. It just depends on how well they’re going to treat me. As for being back in the UFC, the best fighters are there. I cannot be lying about it that I don’t want to be back in the UFC, but I’m not really thinking about it. The main thing is to fix my record, and if that is a goal I cannot accomplish, why would I want to be back in the UFC?

PRO MMA NOW: What would be the best way for fans to keep track of what you’ve got coming up in the future?

VINNY MAGALHAES: I have a Facebook and a Twitter and I’m pretty much posting stuff about my training every day on both. My Twitter is and on Facebook you can just search my name it pops up both my fan page and my personal page.

PRO MMA NOW: Are there any specific sponsors you’d like to give a plug to or anyone you’d like to thank?

VINNY MAGALHAES: I would like to thank They are my sponsors, and OTM, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Hostility, and my trainer Mark Beecher. He’s the one that has really changed my career a lot. Before, I was pretty much just doing my own thing, and now I have a guy who is guiding me. So I have to thank Beecher and of course, M-1.

Watch Vinny in action right here as he fights for the M-1 title this Thursday! will feature a LIVE stream of M-1 Challenge 25 on Thursday, April 28, starting at 11:30 a.m. ET.

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