You have to be pretty darn good for the legendary Wanderlei Silva to personally seek you out in Brazil to bring you to America as a coach in his Las Vegas gym.
Luckily for Vitor Vianna, he was that guy.
Vianna balances a very successful although under-the-radar mixed martial arts career with coaching Brazilian jiu-jitsu for Wand Fight Team at Silva's gym. His skills earned him a #3 ranking on Leland Rolling's top middleweight prospects list and he also caught the eye of Bellator Fighting Championships.
The 31 year old Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion signed with Bellator earlier this year and will participate in Saturday night's (September 17, 2011) quarterfinals for the promotion's season five middleweight tournament at Bellator 50. Vianna is slated to take on the gritty Team Quest fighter Sam Alvey in the tournament's first leg.
Before he steps in the cage, Vianna spoke with MMAmania.com about his upcoming fight, his overall improvements as a mixed martial artist and what it's like working alongside Wanderlei Silva.
Note: This interview was conducted via e-mail and English is not Vianna's primary language. I am very thankful that he took the time to answer my questions in English.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You are a highly-rated prospect headed into the Bellator middleweight tournament. What are your expectations?
Vitor Vianna: I just wanna fight, I will do my best!
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Are you concerned at all about the short period between fights especially considering you haven't been fought for over a year?
Vitor Vianna: Im fresh. I fought five fights in two mounths in 2006. I like it and I'm very fresh and will focus on that part of my career.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I heard you had a lot of difficulty finding fights here in the United States. Is that one of the key reasons you signed with Bellator?
Vitor Vianna: I signed with Bellator because that's a big promoter in America and this is good to show my job. I feel great. I've been wanting to fight in Bellator a long ago and I think this is the best opportunity to show who I am, all my years of training.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You've been training Brazilian jiu-jitsu for nearly 16 years now, what made you want to make the transition to MMA in 2004?
Vitor Vianna: Very natural, in the beginning I started for fun and now this is my work. I love that sport
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Your striking has improved significantly since moving to the United States to train with Wanderlei Silva. Can you talk about what you've worked on specifically to become better in the stand-up?
Vitor Vianna: I train Muay Thai and box everyday for about six years. I didn't show it but I know I can drop people down with my strike. in the fight I use the best way to win, lets see what I will use on my next fight.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You train Brazilian jiu-jitsu at Wand Fight Team to a very large amount of students in both gi and no-gi. Is it difficult finding the time to also work on all the other aspects of MMA?
Vitor Vianna: My students are very tough. I have many NAGA , Grapplers Quest champions and they help me a lot on my class.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): MMA legend Wanderlei Silva is one of your biggest fans. What does it mean to you to have him supporting you so much?
Vitor Vianna: Wand is the man. He help me a lot and with him I learn day by day. I'm a lucky guy to have him on my side.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): What do you know about your upcoming opponent, Sam Alvey, who you'll be facing in the middleweight tournament quarterfinals?
Vitor Vianna: He is tough. It will be a great fight. I can't wait to step in the cage and start it.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Do you feel you have the best jiu-jitsu of anyone in the middleweight tournament?
Vitor Vianna: I dont know , lets see. Jiu-jitsu is my life. I started training BJJ when I was 15 years, and now I'm 31.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): How do you expect the fight to finish against Alvey on September 17th?
Vitor Vianna: I just want win it September 17. Nothing against this guy. I meet him last Bellator conference and he looked like a nice guy. I gonna try for KO or sub like all my fights.
Vitor would like to thank God, his family, Wand fight team, Vitoria Combat , his coaches Adailton Santos (boxing) Daniel Mendes (Muay Thai) Alexandre Kvera (MMA/wrestling), his team mates Michael Costa, Jorge Lopez, Panda and all his students from las vegas. He's like to give big thanks to his sponsors for believing in him: Era Fight Wear, Cardio Surge , Dating Website and Trucker Deluxe.
Here's a highlight of Vianna, created by his friends on the Wand Fight Team:
So what do you think Maniacs?
Does this prospect have what it takes to win the whole tournament? How will he react to competing on the national stage for the first time?
Be sure to check out these other interviews from our Bellator middleweight introductory series: