Part 2 of
Interview with Pele Landi
By Eduardo Alonso
Photographs by Joel Gold
(Scroll down to Saturday’s post for Part 1)
Originally printed in the October 2001 issue of FCF
FCF: One of your most memorable fights, the one that really promoted your name all over the world, was your first fight against Macaco, back in 1996. Did his antics; his way of fighting back then motivate you even more for the fight?
Pele: I have this old problem, when I take it personally, I have a 99% chance to win, and then it’s all about heart. But Macaco is a very nice person, I stayed with him in Rio de Janeiro, and he paid the hotel for me and stuff, he has a huge heart, is a very nice person, he changed a lot as a person! He is a true fighter! He will be always there.
FCF: Because there was a big rivalry back then…
Pele: Back in those days people wanted him to take Rickson’s place, he was on the cover of all magazines, and he was really good in fact.
FCF: When you felt that you had the control in the fight, and started to punish him, what went through your head? Did you have the exact notion of what that fight could represent in your career back then?
Pele: I got to Sao Paulo for the fight without knowing him, and I got to know him 3 days before the event in a magazine. I knew I was going to win, I was very well prepared. I was sure that there wasn’t anyone in Brazil back then who could take the Brazilian belt from me.
FCF: Soon there came the rematch against Macaco at the WVC in 1997. Did you expect a tougher fight than it was?
Pele: I don’t know. I came to fight, and we brawled. After that they put Johil in the alternates, and it was all settled. If I would win the first fight, they would put Johil against me. Johil wasn’t going to fight you know, and everything was already set up. I always suffered a lot with these type of things. Then there was a time that I was doing great and they threw Chuck [Liddell] against me, but that’s how life goes.
FCF: For a long time there was a big rivalry between you and Macaco, something very personal. Is it true that some fights happened when you two met outside of the ring?
Pele: Well, Macaco and I had an incident at a rules meeting once, but this is all in the past.
FCF: Macaco said recently that the rivalry between you two is over, and now you both respect each other. How is your relationship with him these days? What do you think of him now?
Pele: Nowadays, he comes to Curitiba and enjoys the night with my students! He is coming to the right place, because Curitiba is a warrior’s land! When you step here you already feel the need to do a good fight. He is a very nice guy!
FCF: After your fight against Macaco, one of your biggest rivalries was against Johil de Oliveira. In the first fight, after an amazing battle, you ended up losing the fight on a judges’ decision. Why couldn’t you do your usual game in this fight?
Pele: I believe that I lacked knowledge back then. Johil was very experienced back then, and he kept holding the fight, controlling it. I didn’t have any guard movement, and I was apathetic, and he kept on pounding. At the same time I never thought about giving up, I even wanted the 15-minute overtime, but they didn’t allow it. In fact, I didn’t even have the condition to fight the overtime.
FCF: One of the most impressive pictures that I ever saw was the one of your face after your first fight against Johil…
Pele: I never saw anyone get like that in a fight!
FCF: When the rematch came in 1999, you dominated the fight; defending his takedown attempts and winning by decision after punishing him a lot. What do you think you did differently in the rematch that you couldn’t do in the first fight?
Pele: I was very well prepared; I knew I was going to win. I don’t know, I think I wanted to kill Johil! [Laughs] There was even an incident at the airport! Then he felt how I was eager to fight him.
FCF: I was going to ask you that. Vanderlei Silva once told me about it. What happened in the airport between you two?
Pele: I saw him, looked at his face and I called him names, and he said, " Well, take easy! You can’t do that!" It was enough to look at his face and my blood would get hot! He wanted to shake my hand! Was he crazy? [Laughs] He made my face look like a drum and then wanted to shake my hand! [Laughs] It’s a bit too much! [Laughs] I looked at his face and called him a son of a bitch, and said that he was a coward! And he asked, "Why?" and I told him, "because you are!" Then, before hell broke loose, all the guys were holding him and avoiding a fight. And there was a guy with a laptop there, who just sat and typed the story right on the spot and sent it over the ‘net [laughs].
FCF: I remember that in that fight you would sprawl, defend his takedowns, and start to punish him. Very close to the style that a lot of fighters are using now, and you already did it a few years ago.
Pele: For sure! I was already warning people back then that this style was going to rule, and people didn’t believe me back then. And back then who started to adapt this style? Maurice Smith! He would stay on the bottom throwing punches and people thought, "Gee, what’s this guy doing throwing strikes from the guard?" And he was very successful back then, but now, with these new rules that don’t allow elbows, it’s a bit tougher to do it.
FCF: At IVC 5 you gave quite a show, beating Gerald Taylor, Jorge Pereira and Milton Bahia. How was this event for you? And what do you think about fighting 3 times in one night?
Pele: I always liked it! And it’s even better now that we fight only one fight. But to fight 3 times in one night you have be very well prepared. And at the IVC it was very funny, because you had to record the little intros before the fight a few days before the event. [Laughs] "Well, now I’m going to the second fight of the night, and I hope I’ll win!" Then, " Now I’m going to the third fight of the night, and I’m ready! Come with me!" And all that some days before the event! [Laughs] The event was tranquil! I was ready, very well prepared!
FCF: At IVC 6, you faced Chuck Liddell, who’s now around the top of the light heavyweight rankings all over the world, fighting in events like Pride and the UFC. He won the fight by decision. Do you think the decision was correct? And what was your biggest difficulty in that fight?
Pele: The biggest difficulty was my own, with my physical preparation. I knocked him down and couldn’t kick his face! It was like my leg was heavy as hell! Then I thought, "Gee, I’m in trouble." He was in front of me on all fours and I couldn’t kick his face! I couldn’t! I was feeling very heavy, I had gained 5 kg in a short time, and I didn’t know this weight, I wasn’t used to fighting with this weight. The decision was correct; he got up from the knockdown. And then [IVC promoter/referee Sergio] Batarelli got in front of him, and then left and says "Go on!"… Gee! [Laughs] it’s tough this way.
FCF: In your fight against Pat Miletich, who was the UFC champion back then, at WEF… You won the fight, and became the WEF champion. How was the tension before that fight? Were you sure about the win?
Pele: I was confident. Because I knew that Miletich fought under the rules, fought at the correct weight. He quit in fact, because of his back. But I punished him a lot with knees to the body; I was doing some internal damage on him. Also, there was some smoke coming out of him when I kneed him! And after I hit him with knees from the clinch, I took him down. I even went for a leg lock! I knew that I wasn’t going to achieve any success with the lock, but I did it only to make him aware of everything, and then I got up and kicked his face.
FCF: After your fight against Miletich, there came your famous fight against Dave Menne. A lot of people believe you won that fight and deserved the win, but the decision went to him. Was it difficult to accept that decision?
Pele: It wasn’t difficult you know why? Because Dave Menne couldn’t look at my eyes after the fight. He couldn’t. I was on the other side of the ring with Coleman congratulating me, a lot of fighters and people talking to me, and Dave Menne passed by limping, with blood dropping from his face, with the belt, and when he was about to pass by me he looks to the ground and kept on walking. When I saw that I thought, "well, I can’t even comment on it," that decision was a joke! The crowd was chanting "USA! USA!" and when they raised Menne’s hand, you needed to see the crowd’s reaction. There were people leaving the arena! And the main event was yet to happen! I was hurting him, and he was backing up and only defending when the fight was over. I took him down and told him to get up! He’s a wrestler!
FCF: Do you think that is tough for a Brazilian fighter, fighting in the USA, to beat an American fighter by decision, since most of the judges are American?
Pele: Look, it wasn’t difficult, but there who was voting was the owner of rings, who voted against me. There were another guy that speaks Portuguese, but trains those guys as well, so I couldn’t win a decision you know. And I was even doing some antics, and making fun of him during the fight, so it was impossible to win a decision.
FCF: Recently a rematch between you and Dave Menne almost happened at the UFC. Do you still think about fighting him again? And what would you do differently in another fight against him?
Pele: Dave Menne for me is just another fighter. I only think that Dave Menne is very smart, and already made a lot of money in a short amount of time. And you have athletes like myself that are fighting for more than 10 years who didn’t make this much money. But this happens; God is giving him all that success for a reason. I’ll have a special motivation against him once we get inside the ring. He knows he couldn’t handle me, and he is going to need to accept the consequences. I’ll crush Dave Menne! I’ll give him a beating! I’m serious! I’ll kick his ass.
FCF: After this fight at WEF, there was a big rivalry between the people from Dave Menne’s camp — especially Matt Hughes — and you. Is it true that he wanted to start a fight against you in the hotel? What really happened?
Pele: It was in the corridor. He was like "Dave Menne! Yeah!" and I told him, "You’re crazy man, this is my profession. Do you think I’ll be here talking about something I didn’t win?" You know, I’m not going to celebrate any win if I’m not sure about my performance.
FCF: With all this rivalry, you two finally fought at Kuwait, at the Warriors War event. You won the fight by knockout, after hitting him with a knee, after Hughes went for a takedown. Is it true that you only entered the event to fight Matt Hughes? What did this fight mean to you?
Pele: Yeah, for sure! That fight meant a lot back then, but afterwards it didn’t mean much. But I went there to fight against him! I knew the way to win was with that sort of knees, but he felt like a rock! A rock! He seemed like made of concrete when he was on side mount!
FCF: After the fight, in a very nice attitude, Matt Hughes came to congratulate you. Is there any rivalry between you two? Did you two talk after the fight?
Pele: No! There isn’t any rivalry! It was a foolish thing. He wanted things that way, I told him "Don’t go this way, ’cause it’s dangerous."
To be continued…