Jiu-jitsu legend Rodolfo Vieira learned valuable lessons in quick MMA road to UFC
MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay — Rodolfo Vieira will become one of the greatest jiu-jitsu competitors to ever enter the Octagon when he faces middleweight Oskar Piechota at Saturday night’s UFC Uruguay. He has gone through a lot despite what his short MMA career might indicate.
A five-time jiu-jitsu world champion and one-time ADCC gold medalist, Vieira made the transition to MMA in 2017 and racked up a perfect 5-0 record in the sport in just 28 months. He admits he didn’t expect to become a UFC fighter so quickly, but credits his glorious career in jiu-jitsu for the push to the eight-sided cage.
Vieira signed with the UFC after defeating 10-0 middleweight Vitaliy Nemchinov in just two minutes at ACA 96, the biggest win of his career record-wise, but his toughest test came when he didn’t anticipate any struggle.
A few months after debuting in the sport, the jiu-jitsu black belt was one of the stars at Shooto Brazil 74 in 2017. Fighting in front of family and friends in his hometown Rio de Janeiro, Vieira was set to meet short-notice replacement Fagner Rakchal in a 185-pound clash.
Vieira was a huge favorite, but Rakchal, who held a 2-3 record at the time, forced him to dig deep that night.
“I still don’t know how I won that fight,” Vieira told MMA Fighting. “I never spoke with anyone about it, but I went through many bad things during that camp. I’ll sum it up for you: I injured my knee and my lower back. I couldn’t train jiu-jitsu, just boxing. I couldn’t get any takedowns, nothing at all.
“I also had a bacteria in my stomach and the doctor told me later that if I took longer to treat it could evolve to a cancer. I took antibiotics for 25 days and couldn’t train. It sucked, man. That’s why I don’t know how I won that fight. I didn’t even deserve to win that fight, but I guess I was so hungry, fighting in front of my family and friends, everyone there, that I thought, ‘I can’t lose to this guy here in front of them, I have to submit him.’
“The only way I could win would be with a submission, but I took him down and couldn’t do sh*t. It was horrible, man, but, in the end, I submitted him. I couldn’t believe it, man. It’s like you said, I had to overcome difficulties. I dislocated a finger 10 seconds into the fight… That fight was horrible for me. I still can’t believe I won.”
Another lesson he learned that night? MMA fans are different.
Whenever he entered an arena to compete in a jiu-jitsu tournament, Vieira would have his fellow GFTeam athletes rooting for him in the stands. He was such a likeable figure in the grappling world that competitors from other gyms would eventually root for him as well.
Vieira had family and friends at Upper Arena to support him at Shooto Brazil 74. He was a popular name in the martial arts circuit, so others would support him against the unknown 2-3 rival. When Rakchal began showboating and clipping Vieira on the feet, though, the “Rodolfo!” chants weren’t coming anymore.