Part 3 of
Interview with Pele Landi
By Eduardo Alonso
Photographs by Joel Gold
Scroll down to
Monday’s post (11/26) for Part 2 &
Saturday’s post (11/24) for Part 1
Originally printed in the October 2001 issue of FCF
FCF: You ended up losing to Kareem Barklaev in the event’s semi-final. There was lots of complaining from the fighters about the event’s organization and some things suited to help Barklaev. Is it true that he was fighting above the weight of the event?
Pele: In fact he was watching his weight. What they did was to make us have a very heavy dinner, then a large breakfast, so we would eat a lot and gain a lot of weight before the weigh-in. And right after the breakfast they came in with the weigh-ins! With that I weighed 87kg, almost 88kg! And I was supposed to be around 83 or 84kg. And Barklaev weighed around 91kg.
FCF: Do you believe that the problems that you had with the trip to Kuwait, with the lack of support from the event, hindered you in that fight?
Pele: I believe so. I traveled for 54 hours! I traveled a lot, and then when I got off the plane I ran for an hour in Kuwait, because my legs were all swollen, due to the trip. Then I had dinner, slept a little, took breakfast, made weight and went to the arena to fight! All that fast. It’s tough.
FCF: It was quiet a mess…
Pele: They didn’t even have a plane ticket for me… Well, Amaury Bitetti gave up before the event. He was supposed to fight against a partner of Barklaev, and he said, "I’m not going to brawl against this guy!" and I asked him why, and he told me "look at the size of this guy’s hand!" [Laughs] and we laughed a lot, because the guy had a huge hand! With some weird fingers, unbelievably big. [laughs] Man! I looked and the guy’s hand was gigantic! [Laughs] my God! They’re all with that structure there. [laughs] The truth, jokes aside, is that the guy was very heavy for Amaury, it was completely absurd, and Amaury did the right thing. He is a smart guy.
FCF: Do you want to have a chance to fight Barklaev again in the future?
Pele: For sure, in fact I believe that he isn’t a fighter to fight against me. When I saw his first fight, I thought he was a very bad fighter. He fought against a Spanish guy and he had all sorts of problems. But then against me he did everything! He dominated the fight. I did nothing against him. I wasn’t myself.
FCF: After lots of negotiations with the UFC, you went to Pride, facing Daijiro Matsui. Some people didn’t agree with the decision in that fight, giving the victory to Matsui. What did you think about the fight? Do you believe the yellow card that you received contributed to that decision?
Pele: Sure, and besides that I was weighing 79kg, and Matsui was at least 89kg. When you are heavy and face a guy even heavier it’s okay! But when you are very light, around the 70-kilo range, and you face someone heavy, it’s not the same thing! I want to emphasize this, because there are people that don’t know about it. And what’s Matsui? Matsui is a guy who isn’t intelligent in the ring, but he’s a guy that has a lot of will and a lot of cardio. Then I took my pupil [Murilo Ninja] and threw him against Matsui, because he has a lot of will and cardio too, and he’s very talented!
FCF: Early in the fight, after connecting with some good strikes against Matsui, you went to fight on the ground, almost finishing him. If you fought him today, would you opt to keep punishing him standing instead of looking to fight on the ground?
Pele: I can look for every type of fight, on the ground or standing. But I like to fight standing. When I connected with the knee, if I had landed two kicks to his face, the referee would have stopped the fight… but you know, I was well prepared, but I was too light. Now I’ll fight a bit heavier.
FCF: You still have one fight left in your contract with Pride. Is it true that you were very close to fighting in PRIDE 16, but they couldn’t find an opponent for you?
Pele: They tried a lot of opponents. They went after everybody.
FCF: Isn’t it frustrating to train so hard, and end up not fighting?
Pele: Well, no problem. We have Vanderlei fighting, so many athletes who need to fight. I want to help Nilson de Castro now to get back to fighting. He was away for a while, but I talked to him and told him that he should be fighting with us. He’s very tough; Very talented. So we have a lot of people to work here, and meanwhile I’m always training.
FCF: Is there any chance that you will fight in Pride 17? Can we expect to see Pele back in the event?
Pele: For the November show they didn’t tell me anything; besides I’m not even training sharply to fight. But they told me that for December I’ll be fighting.
FCF: Whom would you like to fight in Pride, or in any event for that matter?
Pele: All of them! All of them! Well, I would like to fight against a professional that in my eyes can do a great fight with me… Dan Henderson. I believe that this would be a great fight. He is a tough guy; he comes in to fight! I think it’ll be great!
FCF: Who do you believe are the best fighters in the world nowadays?
Pele: Nowadays only Vanderlei! Vanderlei is the top guy right now!
FCF: At the last Pride, your student Murilo Ninja gave quite a show beating Matsui. Was there any special motivation because Matsui beat you in the past? And what can we expect from Ninja in the future?
Pele: I told him that since I lost to Matsui, he needed to avenge my name. Ninja is going to be the best fighter in the world for sure! When he came to me, he told me that he wanted to be a pro. So I told him, "You’re going to be the best fighter in the world, are you ready?" I’m going to make him the best fighter in the world!
FCF: He is even showing some great ground skills!
Pele: My God! He loves Jiu Jitsu. He enters all the tournaments… He almost eats with his gi on! [Laughs] We love Jiu Jitsu here; everybody here has a passion for Jiu Jitsu. If people think bad about us, it’s because of some position that some people have that doesn’t even have a reason to exist towards warriors like us! There are guys that want a piece of us, and want to do NHB without strikes! [Laughs] They act all tough and stuff! Wait a second; next to us they can’t do that. [laughs] Ninja has been training with me for 3 years now, and I have another great student coming, Carioca! He’s living with me, and he’s been training with me for 6 years now! He weighs around 67kg, and he will be starting to fight NHB as a pro now! We are going to put him to fight in MECA!
FCF: An amazing union characterizes the Chute Boxe academy, and its fighters have been standing out all over the world. Do you believe that this union is the secret of the academy success?
Pele: Sure! We’ve had a dream since we were kids, teenagers… "Let’s train! We are going to be the best!" And this has continued to this day! And there’s the organization! We are so much of a family that we can even call ourselves a gang! Rudimar calls the shots here. Rudimar is the main man here, then Rafael Cordeiro is also very important, then everybody is treated the same. Here, if you make any mistakes you are going to be punished! For real! It doesn’t matter who you are, how old you are. Respect is the key.
FCF: And you guys train with each other every day! Everybody trains with everybody, some real NHB training…
Pele: And that’s why I love to be here talking to you now! [Laughs] I was supposed to be there training with Anderson! He has great boxing! It’s crazy. [Laughs] His nickname is "Jab." His jab is like a straight punch, it hurts! He’s very talented. Besides, in the old days he was my opponent twice in Muay Thai matches! We fought two times, and I won both. But in one of those fights he was dominating the whole fight, giving a little show, when I knocked him down in the fourth round, and the referee opened the count, and I won. This was back in the days that he trained with Noguchi; he got his black belt from him.
FCF: I didn’t have the chance to watch Anderson’s fight against Sakurai, but he is very impressive…
Pele: I watched it during the last Pride, and in fact Sakurai was there, and he didn’t even look at Anderson. Do you know what I mean?
FCF: Sakurai could also have been your opponent, and there’s always the talk about you fighting Frank Trigg…
Pele: Yeah, I have heard a lot about this guy and about a fight between us. But I don’t even know who he is. I believe it can happen.
FCF: Are you a Jiu Jitsu purple belt? How is your ground training nowadays?
Pele: I’m a purple belt, and I’m on my way to my brown belt. I’ll get back to my Jiu Jitsu training with the gi on today or tomorrow. I want to train six months straight at least to sharpen my game. I don’t even take my gi off; it gets all dirty and black. People even call me a mechanic. [laughs] One day I’ll be a Jiu Jitsu black belt! I don’t care if it’ll take a zillion years, but I’ll be a black belt one day! And I train wrestling with "He-Man" too; he brought some new techniques for us.
FCF: How is your physical preparation?
Pele: I train, I run, lift weights, swim, a bit of everything.
FCF: Vanderlei Silva, your training partner, is going to rematch Kazushi Sakuraba in November at Pride. How do you think the fight will go this time?
Pele: Vanderlei is on the right track. He is very strong; he’s the top now. He will win. Where Vanderlei strikes, he knocks you down!
FCF: Your master Rudimar Fedrigo has been organizing the MECA World Vale Tudo in Curitiba. You fought in the event once, easily beating "Diamante Negro." Do you still intend to fight in the event in the future?
Pele: Of course! MECA is great! Whenever the master calls me, I’m in. Next year we will have a lot of MECA events, and this will give more people the chance to appear and fight. It will be great!
FCF: Do you believe that Holland has the best Muay Thai in the world?
Pele: I admire the Muay Thai from Thailand a lot. But with the guys we have here, I’m starting to change my point of view. Katel did great in Thailand, and he isn’t even the best Muay Thai fighter that we have here, although he’s a great fighter! So, I think we’re getting really better.
FCF: Do you still think about fighting in Muay Thai events, or K-1?
Pele: K-1 is not for me, because I’m too light. I’ll need a lot of years to be a heavyweight. But Muay Thai for sure.
FCF: What are your projects for the future Pele?
Pele: I want to make a lot of money, to support my family and provide the best things possible for my kid. That’s all I think about now. In the future I want to manage athletes and help them, and also when I finish my career, I want to do movies and be an actor in the USA! I was even talking to Stephen Quadros about it, and I want him to be my manager in the movie career in the future.
FCF: Do you want your son to follow your steps and become a fighter?
Pele: No doubt about it! This is inevitable. He will be a champion! His purse is now at $500,000. [Laughs], He already has the size of a 14-month-old baby, and weighs like an 11-month-old! [Laughs]
FCF: Any final messages for your fans worldwide, Pele?
Pele: I want to tell my fans that I’m always concerned about keeping my posture as a warrior, and I hope that they will never forget me! I don’t want to go through this life as another one, I want to leave something remarkable. 100 years in the future, I want people to enter the academy and see my picture, and people remember me as a warrior who fought with heart and for the fans.
FCF: Thanks a lot for the interview! It was a huge pleasure!
Pele: I want to send a hug and a kiss for my family! Thanks a lot, it was great!