Heating up for UFO:
Sperry Takes His Class Act to a New Stage!
One could say a lot of things about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt Mario Sperry, however no one would be able to deny one thing: he is a true class act. After a career marked by all possible titles in Jiu-Jitsu, and some memorable NHB fights over the years, Zé Mario had to deal with a serious injury, which required surgery, for the first time in his professional and victorious career more than a decade long. This didn’t take away Mario’s will to fight and only some months later he is already back in great fashion, at a brand new event that will be broadcast nationwide in Japan by one of the country’s most famous TV stations, attracting a cast of celebrities outside of the ring such as Mike Tyson and NHB’s legendary Rickson Gracie. In a conversation with FCF just one day before leaving for the land of the rising sun, Sperry shared his views on his last fight, his serious knee injury, his next challenge and much more. As Full Contact Fighter is more heated than ever for UFO, he continues to be all about class! Let the "Zen Machine" speak…
FCF: Your last fight was against Murilo Ninja, at PRIDE 20. This fight was considered by many one of the best fights in recent years. Now, after some time has passed, how do you analyze that fight? Would you do anything different?
MS: Man, in fact I believe I entered the fight too confident and at the time I don’t know what happened. I thought, "I’m going to test how this kid fighting standing up" and I risked trading strikes. There I paid the price of my will to test things. You know, I’m an older guy and I already conquered a lot of things in my life, but this for me, despite being a job, is something exciting! So I like to test myself, to rate myself, and unfortunately in the beginning of the fight I took a serious knockdown that got me dazed for twenty minutes and injured my knee. That doesn’t take away his merit! He is a spectacular guy, who knows the ground game, knows Muay Thai and has a great physical condition! But that punch I took in the beginning of the fight decided it for sure.
FCF: You injured your knee in the first round of that fight. What made you continue till the end? Was it tough to fight like that?
MS: Sincerely speaking, I didn’t feel much pain in my knee at the time. I felt that something was wrong, but I didn’t feel much pain. What I felt was a bit of a lack in response from my knee. I wasn’t been able to do a good guard, I wasn’t being able to change positions and position myself, which is my strong point. Despite the fact that Murilo is a strong guy who knows the game very well, he was pushing me and having a certain superiority in the clinch, and this doesn’t happen in the academy when I train with athletes who weighs more than 110kg [242.5 lbs.], strong guys who are used to wrestling. Fighting for me is my life! It’s a pleasure for me to be able to keep fighting and for me this was an unforgettable fight! I gained a lot experience with it. I spent twenty minutes fighting with a top guy, feeling debilitated, all broke up! [Laughs] For me this is a pleasure! I would only stop if the referee told me to stop or if he knocked me out!
FCF: On the tape, it’s evident that you massage your knee during the fight….
MS: No! There I was putting my knee back into place! Every time you see me putting my hand on my knee during the fight is because I’m putting it back into place.
FCF: I know you’re extremely professional, but would you like a second fight against Ninja?
MS: I would like another fight with Ninja not to prove I’m better or to take any doubts of what could’ve happened if I did anything different. I would like to fight him again because he is a great fighter and for me it would be a great experience, as any other great fighter! Like I would fight against Vanderlei, or against Tito Ortiz, because they’re all great fighters and for me a great challenge is always welcome! This is what I look for. I look after challenges, like I did against Vovchanchyn. I try to improve and surpass my limits; this is what makes me alive and willing to train. So, of course it would be a great pleasure to fight against Murilo Ninja again, but not because of revenge or anything like that. I don’t believe in "ifs," I believe in victory and defeat. If you won, you won, if you lost you lost. But if one day I get to fight him again, it will be a pleasure because he is a great athlete.
FCF: Your knee injury wound up being more serious than even you thought, and you ended up having to have surgery. How was it for you to have to go through this situation for the first time, after such a long career free of injuries?
MS: Well, that’s how it goes man! Everything in life serves as experience. I’m a guy that always took pride in never having to take any surgery in my career and never suffering any serious injury. I only had small injuries during my career that would never make me have to stop training because of them. This was the first time this happened in my career and in some sense I’m using this as experience! I was hurt and started to do physiotherapy and learned some ways to train without hurting myself, so I try to face everything that comes in my life as a challenge and a situation to improve us in the future and try to pass it to the younger guys. So it was something positive.
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