Ricardo Almeida Interview
Re: Middleweight KOP
By: Lynn Lane
Date: December 5, 2003
Lynn: Ricardo, I want to thank you for taking the time to
answer a few questions for your friends and fans out there in the wide expanse
of the Internet. Right now you must be riding on a pretty high wave after
winning the Middleweight King of Pancrase title last weekend. There was so much hype around this fight on the
internet and at times you were viewed as the Underdog coming into this one.
When you read this, how did you feel about being viewed as the underdog after
such convincing wins that have had lately?
Ricardo: To me it was just another fight. I tried to keep
the importance of a title match and the repercussions out of my mind. When I
fight I try to have no emotions towards the outcome itself. In my head I try to
define clearly what it is I need to do to win and just go out there and
execute. Weather I win or not is not as important as being out there.
Lynn: Getting ready for this fight, knowing Nathan’s
style, did you do anything different?
Ricardo: Each fight I train different. I try to analyze my
opponent’s strengths and weaknesses as well as my own, and from there I develop
a game plan. I feel I am at a level of conditioning now where I can train a lot
more effectively. I can do my conditioning sessions, and still have energy to
spend hours on the mat working around the game plan, which to me it is the most
Lynn: In regards to training, since we first saw you bust
onto the scene in the UFC, you’re fighting style has evolved and grown
dramatically, what are you doing different and what changes do you feel that
you have made to Ricardo Almeida the fighter?
Ricardo: When I first fought at Pride and UFC
I was an amateur among professionals. I didn’t even spar (boxing or kick
boxing) until my 3rd UFC
Now I understand a lot
better what it needs to be done to be competitive at this level. Like anyone
that takes up a new endeavor, you have to make sure you tough it out through
the first couple probationary years that take for you to master the new skills
Lynn: Now that you are the Middleweight King of
Pancrase, what can we expect to see
from you? Will we see you fighting for the Light Heavyweight King of
Pancrase Title? Will we see you
going over to Pride anytime soon
and dominating the 185 pound bracket?
Ricardo: I feel I would like to defend the Middle Weight
title before moving to Light Heavy Weight. I would like to fight again in Pride; I feel I have done enough to earn a spot. My dream
would be to fight at a tournament style, may be a Pride Grand Prix for 180 pounders that would be awesome.
Lynn: One question that pops up a lot on the Underground
Forum is “Will the Big Dog ever
fight again in the UFC?” What do
you think Ricardo? Will it happen?
Ricardo: When I left the UFC, I wanted some time away from the spotlight, I
realized there was a lot I needed to improve. I wanted to fight smaller shows
and ended up fighting at Pancrase
against opponents that would rival those at the UFC. However there was no
pressure. I feel I have matured a lot since then, but I still have a lot to
accomplish in this journey in Japan. If the UFC shows interest in having me fight there again in the
future, it will be an honor.
Lynn: Personally, I think that the Japanese
fans truly understand the ground game more that the American fan base does at
this time. Do you think that as the sport grows here we will see the fans
change or do you see it as more a part of the American culture of preferring
the stand up game to the ground game because of our boxing history?
Ricardo: I am not sure, Americans are used to paying high
dollars to get the best they can get. I think once MMA gets a little bit more exposure and we have other
big organizations aside from UFC,
competing for fans, general public will clearly see the entertaining potential
of MMA over boxing. I believe UFC
is setting the standards as far as transparency and credibility, one big step
would be a ranking system based on UFC fights
alone (much like Pancrase). This
would remove some of the politics toward title matches.
Lynn: Recently there was a bit of controversy on the
internet regarding the end of your fight and you being sucker punched by Nathan
after the referee stopped the fight. Would you like to tell us about what
really happened that night?
Ricardo: First of all I apologize for the incident and
personally take sole responsibility for all that happened. The truth is I held
the choke until the ref broke it. And before letting go I grimed toward a
photographer just behind the ropes. It was a release of emotions; I did not
mean any disrespect toward my opponent at all. It was years of training,
dedication, hardship, and to win a title being able to tap my opponent out in
the first round, I just couldn’t help but smile.
I feel I started the whole
incident…after I released Nathan he punched me in the face…Renzo jumped up and kneed him in the chest to get him
off of me…then I jumped up and thought about retaliating…and Martin Rooney, my other corner man was able to stop
Lynn: I personally think that what happened after the
referee stopped the fight was truly unfortunate, but with recent events as well
as past events regarding denial of a tap by the opponent, a fighter is now
forced to hold the position until the referee steps in to stop the fight. In a
title fight of this caliber, one can’t risk losing position and possibly the
title by releasing and the referee not seeing the tap. Is this what you were
Ricardo: The truth is you don’t see a guy knocking the other
one out and walking away, you make sure you get in there and you finish it. It
is the same with submission holds, if I can get one, I will only let go when
the ref pulls me off, especially with a title on the line.
Lynn: When Renzo stepped
in to protect you, I feel what he did was completely appropriate as a corner
man. If a fighter is sucker punched by his opponent, it is the responsibility
of the corner man to protect his fighter. There was some blame being put on Renzo for his actions, while at the same time many
people stood up to defend him. I can’ imagine how anyone could see an error in
his judgment. If your fighter is hit in the manner that you were, the corner
should jump in. Can you tell us a bit about what you think about this?
Ricardo: The Reason why I have Renzo
in my corner is that he will be on my side, weather I am right or wrong.
Actually the reason why Renzo was there so fast
was because he realized that I was holding the guillotine and not letting go so
he jumped up already knowing I was doing something that could cause controversy
and even retaliation. He made sure he was there to protect me if it was needed.
He did not think twice about the repercussions…I believe that shows his true
character…putting his reputation on the line for the safety of his fighter. I
would not want anyone else in my corner.
Lynn: Ricardo we spoke the other day about the Japanese
media’s response to the fight and the after fight chaos. What is their
Ricardo: Man the Japanese fans are a little different. A lot
of them were praising Renzo after the fight and
giving him props. But there were probably those who were unhappy with the whole
Lynn: After the fight, when you and Nathan were able to
talk, how was he in regards to his sucker punching you and Renzo hitting him?
Ricardo: Nathan realized his response was not appropriate as
I did myself. We apologized to each other and that was it. We sat down and
talked a bit in the Hotel Lobby, I told him I was a big fan of his and wished
him luck. The truth is that most times I would rather hang out or maybe have
dinner and get to know my opponents than have to fight them. But I am a
professional and this is what I do.
Lynn: I can’t tell you how frustrated I am that this
event seems to overshadow such an amazing win. I do feel though that when the
tape comes out and people see what really happened attitudes will change.
Ricardo: Lynn it does not matter. I fight for the sole
purpose of doing it not to be praised or to win titles. After I was able to get
my emotions away from the fight, I understood my actions had not been
concurrent with my beliefs and values. And my wish to apologize was motivated
by personal reasons rather than what people would say about the incident.
If people want to talk about
the altercation after the fight rather than the fight itself it’s their choice,
I hold no contempt towards them. If people want to believe things one way,
they’ll find enough arguments to do so, and same goes the other way around.
Lynn: Thanks for all of your time Ricardo. Congrats on
your win and being the new King of Pancrase! You are the man! Is there anything else that you
would like to say to your fans?
Ricardo: Thank you for all the support. I would like to also
thank each and every one that had anything to do with this accomplishment…Renzo Gracie, Martin Rooney,
Edgar Chutan, Roger
Gracie, Pete Lawson, Chris Papa, John Danaher,
the guys at New Brunswick Boxing Gym, my students… Kurt,
James, Rob, George,
Billy and Gene. My
family in Brazil and of course my Queen Ally Almeida,
thank you for giving a meaning to my life I had no right to expect. I love you.
Lynn: Thanks again Ricardo and we’ll be talking
to you again very soon!