After it was announced earlier this month that Mac Danzig (20-8-1) would have to pull out of his scheduled bout with Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone (14-3, 1 NC) at UFC 131 on June 11, UFC newcomer Vagner Rocha (6-1) was named as his replacement.
Rocha, a BJJ black belt under Pablo Popovitch, is primarily known for his accomplishments in the world of grappling (see list of titles). Originally from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Rocha now makes his home in Pembroke Pines, Fla., where he is head instructor at Pembroke Pines BJJ.
ProMMAnow.com (www.prommanow.com) caught up with Rocha this week to get to know more about him and his camp, get his thoughts on making his UFC debut against Cerrone and find out if he has ever had to use his fighting skills outside the cage.
PRO MMA NOW: Hi Vagner, thank you for taking time to speak with us at ProMMAnow.com. Were you already in training or preparing for a fight when you got the call to face Donald Cerrone on June 11th?
VAGNER ROCHA: Yes, I was. I actually fought beginning of this month and had already another fight for June.
PRO MMA NOW: Do you prefer fighting at 155 or 170?
VAGNER ROCHA: I’d rather fight at 155. I felt the guys at 170 were much bigger than I was. Being at 155 I feel stronger than ever.
PRO MMA NOW: Cerrone is an interesting guy because he started out as a Muay Thai fighter, but once he got into MMA, almost all of his wins have come by submission. What is your opinion of Cerrone as an opponent and what is your opinion of Cerrone’s ground game?
VAGNER ROCHA: He is a very well-rounded fighter. Good on the ground, good on his feet. His ground game speaks for itself having 14 fights and 12 submissions.
PRO MMA NOW: We know that you are a BJJ black belt under Pablo Popovitch. Who do you train your striking with, how is that part of your game developing?
VAGNER ROCHA: My striking is coming along, working a lot on it. I’ve been training striking with local striking coaches.
PRO MMA NOW: How many fights did you sign for on your UFC contract?
VAGNER ROCHA: Confidential.
PRO MMA NOW: Who are some of the guys you train with and are helping you prepare for this fight?
PRO MMA NOW: Tell us about your gym in Pembroke Pines; how long have you been there, what kind of classes do you offer and where can people learn more about the gym?
VAGNER ROCHA: Gym has been there or four years. We offer BJJ, MMA and Strength and Conditioning Classes. Open seven days a week, morning, afternoon and night classes. More info: www.bjjcenter.com or www.bjjcenterpembrokepines.com.
PRO MMA NOW: Talk about when you first found out you were actually going to be fighting in the UFC — when did it hit you that this was really going to happen, how did you react, and what does this opportunity mean to you?
VAGNER ROCHA: It hit at the very next day when I had about 100 new friend request on my Facebook, but to me it’s not about fighting in the UFC, it’s about winning there. The opportunity means everything, this is a legendary place to showcase talent and I am happy I have been chose.
PRO MMA NOW: Have you ever had to use your martial arts to defend yourself or someone else in a real life situation and could you explain what happened?
VAGNER ROCHA: People see my couliflower ears from a distance and always try to befriend me. (laughs)
PRO MMA NOW: Thank you for your time Vagner. Best of luck to you on June 11th. Is there anyone you would like to thank you shout out? And tell the readers where thy can keep up with you.
VAGNER ROCHA: Thanks to everyone supporting me. I’d like to give a shout out to my team mates from Team Popovitcth, Team Armory (Jupiter) and all The Avengers. Also, Brawl and Maul for hooking me up with amazing fight gears. You guys can follow me at twitter @Vagner_Rocha and you can Facebook me as Vagner Rocha.