By Christie Sullivan, OntheMat.com
8/9/2011 – Updated 8/14/2011
Strikeforce’s newest Lightweight contender, Milton Vieira, might be a newbie to the organization, but the Brazilian fighter is also one of the most seasoned no-gi grappling and MMA vets within the organization.
Vieira (12-7-1), a Rio de Janeiro native, is an MMA veteran of 10+ years, a Brazilian Top Team (BTT) black belt under Murilo Bustamante, and is widely credited as the inventor of the anaconda choke.
Also known by his nickname “Miltinho,” the fighter debuted Friday, August 12 against Sterling Ford (13-4) at Strikeforce Challengers 18: Gurgel vs. Duarte, where the BTT nogi specialist submitted the American at 4:49 in the first round.
The former student of Carlson Gracie, has now won five of his past five fights and seven of his past eight, with a total of three back-to-back wins via submission. Vieira affectionately credits his wife and the newly revamped BTT team in Brazil for the recent resurgence in his training. In just the past few months, the seasoned fighter signed with both Alchemist Management and the Strikeforce organization.
OnTheMat.com spoke exclusively to Vieira as he wrapped up his final stretch of training in Brazil prior to his trek to Vegas for his impending bout:
Congratulations on your recent signing with Strikeforce and your upcoming debut fight against Sterling Ford at Strikeforce Challengers. Let’s talk a little bit about how you got your start in jiu-jitsu and MMA:
I started fighting, first in luta livre and two years later, in 2001, I began training jiu-jitsu with Carlson Gracie. I was then training in luta livre and jiu-jitsu at the same time for 15 years. It was in 2001, when I also began training MMA at Carlson’s. I have competed mostly in no-gi. I competed three times in major Brazilian luta livre competitions as well as the ADCC trials twice as a black belt.
Your long time coach is Murilo Bustamante, Carlson Gracie black belt and founder of the well-known Brazilian Top Team (BTT). Talk a little bit about training at BTT. Do you train everyday with Murilo? Who are your other coaches?
Yes, I train everyday with Murilo Bustamante. Eraldo Paes, is my other coach at Brazilian Top Team. Paes has been my friend for about 25 years andhe has trained with me every time before my fights. Paes also helped trained Murilo (Bustamante) for his last fight. But they both train me everyday.
Murilo will probably come with me to my fight in Vegas! This is very exciting for me.
Who are your other main training partners at BTT?
I train with many good guys, “Toquinho”, Pedro Nobre—Nobre is a little guy, but strong and helps me a lot and Toninho Furia. I’m training everyday with Murilo and Paes.
How has BTT changed during the last decade?
At this moment, BTT is now at the best of it’s time. After "Minotauro" (Antônio Rodrigo "Minotauro" Nogueira) and some other top guys left, I believe now, is the best time for BTT. Now there are many guys on the mats, as many as 30 top-level guys on the mat at a time.
Are your improved results as a fighter and the resurgence at BTT due to this new group of younger fighters? Are they giving you tougher training?
Yes, yes, definitely. I believe Nobre and Furia are the new names and the future stars at main events. They are tough guys, with many wins and few losses.
You don’t necessarily have the best record on paper (12-7-1), yet you have a great deal of experience, with more than a decade fighting in organizations such as: PRIDE, Bitteti, and M-1. That is quite the resume in terms of ring/cage experience. Your record shows you’ve faced big names like Jake Shields, Sukurai and Johnny Eduardo (who will fight on this month’s UFC Rio card).
You saw my fight with Johnny Eduardo? (Vieira chuckles)
Yes, my experience will give me an advantage. I have some losses in MMA, but they have been to some of the best and toughest in my division. Some of them I came in one weight category above my own.
You appear to be on a resurgence with two back-to-back victories. What changed in the last year for you?
Well, I had some problems with a shoulder injury for a long time. It was difficult for me to fight, but during that time, I met my wife, and she gave me more concentration and focus with my training. I always had one dream—one dream, to stay in a big event and to have a big company, like Alchemist (management) and a big organization like Strikeforce sign me.
I am now having better results. Two years ago I couldn’t compete at a high level. With my new focus, I have better results for my hard work of the last couple years.
You are usually regarded as the stronger grappler in your MMA bouts due to your BJJ background. You are also said to be the inventor of the anaconda choke and have won your last two bouts by way of submission.
My focus is always in the submission, because my background is jiu-jitsu. I have the anaconda choke as my best position and I use this position everyday on my training partners everyday. My partners know this submission, but I still take the position from them because I have many variations to the submission. I feel confident my ground game is some of the best in no-gi.
How have you prepared for your Strikeforce debut fight against Sterling Ford? Will you be looking for the submission?
My focus on this fight is the submission. But I have been training hard in my Muay Thai and my boxing. If I have the knockout though; I’m prepared to take the knockout.
(Fun fact: Vieira taught the anaconda choke to former BTT teammate, Antonio “Minatauro” Noguiera, who later debuted the moved in PRIDE in 2004 with a win over Heath Herring)