At one stage in his career, Fabricio Monteiro looked set for stardom winning all of his first ten fights, eight of them via stoppage, to establish himself as one of the most exciting prospects in Brazil.
He won the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) Mundials World Championships when he was a blue belt and also won plenty of fans in the mixed martial arts (MMA) world because he always looks for the knockout despite having a skill set which would be suited to a more methodical Jiu-Jitsu based game.
This aggressive style earned him the moniker of 'Pitbull' and despite having a second degree BJJ black belt, he has just as many stoppages due to strikes as he does submissions. Monteiro acquired that nickname early in his MMA career and it has stuck.
"The name Pitbull comes from when I first started fighting in Brazil. In my debut I knocked out my opponent in 23 seconds, showing off my very aggressive style of fighting. It also happens to be the name of the team I trained with in Brazil. So it is a combination of my fighting style and where I come from."
After winning his first three fights for DEEP in Japan, Monteiro was on the verge of being offered a spot in the Pride Lightweight Grand Prix but was submitted in the second round of a qualifier by Satoru Kitaoka. The tournament would never happen and as Pride was swallowed up by the UFC his career started on a downward spiral.
"My international debut in Japan was great, and I was off to a very good start. I had six wins internationally but unfortunately things got held up on the business side of things. We were negotiating contracts with some big events, but then they started to have some serious problems and it became a big distraction. I am only looking forward now though, and am excited to start fresh with ONE FC."
Monteiro is an instructor at Evolve MMA in Singapore and a member of the fight team there but has not seen competitive action since 2009. Events in his life were having and adverse effect on his results and eventually led him to take a break from MMA.
"I was very busy taking care of issues in my personal life, both professional and family. In Brazil fighters are not highly valued and it is very hard to make a living fighting. It became very difficult for me to divide my time between training and work and I had to take some time off from competing in order to raise my family and focus on business. Ask many of the great champions in Brazil and they will tell you it is very difficult to keep fighting only in Brazil. I am very happy and fortunate to be at Evolve now."
After winning numerous local, regional, national and international BJJ tournaments as well as having a highly respectable MMA record of 19-9 Monteiro's credentials as an instructor were impeccable, even if his fighting career was on the backburner.
"I was introduced to Singapore and Evolve MMA through Professor Rafael "Gordinho" Correa. Professor Gordinho recommended me to join the Evolve team in order to teach BJJ and train with some of the best in the world. My motivation to start competing again is for myself, but has also been renewed through my faith in God. I have been through much in my life, I know who I am, and my faith and desire to become champion will not allow me to quit."
Monteiro found himself training at one of the most elite MMA academies in the world and rubbing shoulders with the likes of Shinya Aoki and Rafael Dos Anjos. It is the perfect environment for a fighter to flourish and with Asia's biggest mixed martial arts promotion headquartered in Singapore the temptation to resume his fighting career proved simply irresistible.
"I have competed in BJJ competitions since I was 7 years old. I have won many national and international competitions, such as the State Championships, National, Pan American and World Championships and my MMA career lasted five years. I love to compete and I missed the competition and when the opportunity came to fight for a world famous promotion like ONE FC there was no way I could say no."
He will be up against Yuya Shirai who is one of the top welterweights in Asia at ONE FC 3 on March 31st. The Japanese fighter is the reigning Deep 170 lbs champion and has a professional record of 22-10. These two fighters have both appeared on the same Deep cards in the past and Monteiro will have his work cut out if he is to make a winning comeback.
"Yes, I have known of Shirai for a long time, and have followed his career. I take all my fights very seriously and this fight is my return to competition and very important for my career. I have almost 30 fights and many of them have been against veterans who have fought in the UFC, Pride, Pancrase, and DEEP but this will be my return to competition so it is very important to not only win, but also put on a great fight."
Fabricio Monteiro gets airborne against Jutaro Nakao at DEEP: 26th Impact in 2006. Photo by Stephen Martinez.
Monteiro's most recent results have been poor but he puts that down to the fact he was not able to train and prepare properly. He is now dedicated to being a full time mixed martial artists and his preparation should be immaculate with a team of world champions in BJJ, boxing, MMA and Muay Thai to work with at Evolve MMA.
The 'Pitbull' which steps into the cage on March 31st will be a completely different animal from the one which we have seen in Monteiro's last few fights. He says he is ready and raring to go and will be looking for a fast finish.
"When I train correctly and am able to fully focus on my goals I expect to win by stoppage and I have done so 14 times. I am always looking to finish my fights, and when I find an opportunity, I do not let it pass. I still always prepare to fight 25 minutes because I have the mindset of a champion when I am training, and champions fight for five rounds."
Monteiro has been working hard to harness his raw aggression to ensure he doesn't leave himself exposed in his quest for the KO and four of his Evolve MMA team mates are also fighting on the card which gives him plenty of potential training partners to prepare with.
"This helps with my preparation a lot. I do not just think of myself, but of all my teammates, instructors, and coworkers at Evolve. We are more than just friends, we are a family, and that is the difference between Evolve and everyone else. At Evolve no one fights alone, the entire team is there every step of the way. This is the secret of Evolve."
A few years ago Monteiro thought his MMA career was over but on March 31st he will find himself fighting in front of 7,000 fans at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on a show which is being broadcast in 24 countries by ESPN Star Sports.
Some fighters get second chances but few of them will get such a spectacular opportunity to showcase their talents on a stage which is second to none in Asia. Monteiro intends to grab it with both hands by beating the Deep Welterweight Champion and nothing would make him happier than securing the 15th stoppage win of his career.
"I will be prepared for anything against Shirai because he is a great fighter and deserves to be respected. So I respect him BUT if I have the opportunity to end the fight quickly, I will."