Fabricio Werdum is the former UFC heavyweight champion. He is a veteran of 17 fights in the octagon and also fought six times for Pride.

But the crowning achievement of the Brazilian’s career came during a brief stint with Strikeforce. He became the first and only fighter to submit the legendary Fedor Emelianenko and it is an achievement Werdum is proud of because he regards the Russian as the best fighter in heavyweight history,

“Definitely Fedor. You don’t even have to think much about it, he’s obviously the best,” Werdum replied after being asked who the best heavyweight of all time was.

Strikeforce

Big names

Werdum also holds wins over Cain Velasquez, Mark Hunt, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Alistair Overeem. The 42 year old held the interim UFC heavyweight title for nearly two years and has been a professional for the best part of two decades.

Werdum, who faces Alexander Gustafsson in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, is riding a two-fight losing streak for the first time in his career. He is coming off a lackluster split decision loss to Alexsei Oleinik but says there were extenuating circumstances behind that defeat,

“I didn’t train as well as I should for that fight. The pandemic was just starting, and I just felt like I needed to take a fight and keep up my fighting pace. I’m 42 years old and I want to fight as much as possible. I had never fought without sparring and for that fight I didn’t spar at all. We were in the pandemic and I learned that you can’t do that (a fight camp) online.”

Strikeforce

Full camp

Gustafsson is coming out of retirement to make his heavyweight debut, having previously been one of the top challengers in the 205lbs division. While Brazil has been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic Werdum says he has been able to put together a more conventional training camp ahead of this fight,

“We got a full camp. We trained jiu-jitsu, Muay Thai everything. The physical part and the mental part, a full camp.”

The Swedish fighter is nine years younger than Werdum but has not fought for a year.

Strikeforce

Pride veterans

Werdum doesn’t expect to have a significant size advantage but sees it as a good matchup,

“I think Gustafsson is a true heavyweight that cuts down to 205lbs. I had a few options and when I saw his name it made me happy. I think our styles match up pretty well.”

The UFC’s current run of events in Asia might have come together due to necessity. But Sunday’s card features Pride veterans Mauricio Rua and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, who face each other, as well as Werdum.

The Brazilians all starred in the Pride ring during the glory days of Japanese MMA and will be looking to roll back the years with big performances in the octagon on Sunday.