Just because he isn’t able to fight in the UFC right now doesn’t mean Fabricio Werdum is shying away from combat sports.
The former heavyweight champion and jiu-jitsu wizard is keeping active and already has his next opponent in mind. Fellow grappling phenom Gordon Ryan will meet Werdum on February 22 in Monterrey, Mexico. Both have confirmed the matchup, which will take place under combat jiu-jitsu rules.
These rules allow palm strikes in addition to standard grappling holds. Werdum should feel right at home. In addition to using his grappling prowess as one of his main weapons in MMA, he is a two-time world champion in jiu-jitsu and two-time ADCC gold medalist. His opponent also holds two ADCC medals (a gold and a silver), as well as two IBJJF Pan-American gold medals and multiple championships from the EBI.
Werdum has put his jiu-jitsu skills on display by returning to the sport after a seven-year absence that saw him focusing mostly on MMA. He went to a draw with Lucas “Hulk” Barbosa. During his last appearance before this, Werdum won a silver medal after defeating three competitors including fellow MMA fighter Jeff Monson.
Werdum’s further MMA aspirations may have to be put on hold. He will be sitting on the sidelines for two years following a failed drug test that showed trenbolone and epitrenbolone (trenbolone’s metabolite) in his system. The test took place during an out-of-competition screening back in April. It cost Werdum a main event spot on the Moscow card in September.
Werdum has been one of the most consistent heavyweights in recent years. His submission skills have carried him far, making him the only man to hold submission wins over Fedor Emelianenko and Cain Velasquez, as well as a submission win over fellow heavyweight jiu-jitsu phenom Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.
Werdum won the interim heavyweight title by defeating Mark Hunt by TKO via a knee in the clinch and unified the undisputed championship with his victory over Velasquez. He went on to lose the belt to Stipe Miocic in his first defense, before going 3-2 in his next five fights.
If there’s anyone who could bounce back from such a long layoff, it is Werdum. His victory over Emelianenko in Strikeforce is arguably the greatest upset in MMA history, as Emelianenko was riding a decade-long unbeaten streak heading into the bout. While Werdum will be heading toward his mid-40s by the time he returns, he has been known to defy the odds before.
Other fighters who have tested positive under USADA have gone on to revitalize their careers in other promotions and sports. Perhaps Werdum may return to jiu-jitsu and reclaim his former glory just the way he did in MMA. He likely has nothing left to prove in either sport, but the thrill of competition may be too much to shy away from. The man known as “Vai Cavalo” would be eligible for an MMA comeback in 2020.