UNDEFEATED THALES LEITES DEBUTS IN UFC’S OCTAGON @ TUF 4 – FINALE NOVEMBER 11th
Undefeated Nova Uniao fighter Thales Leites from Brazil compiled a 9-0-0 resume with victories over more experienced fighters like Flavio Luis Moura (UFC Vet.), Gustavo ‘Ximu’ Machado (RINGS and KOTC competitor) and Jose ‘Pele’ Landi-Jons (Pride vet.). Now Leites is giving the most important step of his career until then at battle against Swede, Martin Kampmann. The fight will take place on Saturday, Novemver 11th, 2006 UFC TUF 4 – Finale live from HardRock Hotel and Casino is Las Vegas Nevada. Leites talks to OnTheMat.com below: DENIS MARTINS: You should have fought UFC at UFN 7 against Nathan Mardquardt, did you get frustrated by not fighting against him due to a visa’s problem?
THALES LEITES: A bit, but when the visa’s problem occurred, the UFC organizers already had informed me that I’d fight one month later. So this was not a big upset for me. DM: What really happened to generate that visa’s problem?
TL: The interview was scheduled for one day after the show, so this was impossible to compete in UFN 7. I’d like to say that UFC sent me all papers and when I went to the US Embassy I was very well treated and I didn’t have any trouble of reaching my work visa. DM: But, this was a fault from UFC? Which scheduled the stuff one day after the show in Embassy?
TL: I don’t know. The reality is it doesn’t matter now…
DM: Is this TUF 4 – Finale fight the opportunity you always looked for?
TL: I’ve been hunting an opportunity like that at TUF 4 – Finale since I started my MMA career. I always looked for big events where there’s a belt in my weight category and there’s a lot of spotlights inside. I’m happy and training hard to reach well at November. DM: I remember seeing you fighting without gi first time in 2002 and then debuting MMA (amateur one) at SHOOTO Brazil 2. So you had the natural road of a fighter, right? TL: I knew I’d develop with the time, I know I’m better than I was and I’ll do better than I do now. So I hope to be much more complete and technical in the next stages of my career. Those submission and MMA chances after my BJJ’s stage were normal for me. I wanted to test myself and I liked it. Of course I watched the MMA training at Nova Uniao and when the black-belts started their success in MMA I followed that naturally. DM: Truthfully I have to say to you, I didn’t expect to see you involved with MMA, only BJJ and Submission. Besides that, did your family support you when you turned your focus to MMA? TL: When I fought Amateur SHOOTO Brazil I felt myself very well- even a rare situation occurred when my opponent got to hit my mouth (Leites wore a head protector) and I bled (laughs). This wasn’t a surprise to my family when I did the transition to MMA, because they knew I loved to compete and I love the challenges of the fight-sport.
DM: You have 9 professional fights and you won all of them, only one went to the decision. You faced Pancrase veterans, UFC veterans, a Pride veterans, a RINGS veteran and other guys with much more experience than you do. Do you think your victories over Jose ‘Pele’ Landi-Jons and Gustavo ‘Ximu’ Machado were the most important of your career? TL: Nearly all the fights I had, I went like the underdog. My opponents were the favorites and I was there only to be spanked by them; but I always believed in my potential and my coach (Andre Pederneiras) did the same. Well before these two fights mentioned by you, I competed in a 4 man tournament where the UFC 21 veteran Flavio Luis Moura was my first opponent. People wrote on internet I’d be rocked in one of the quickest knock outs ever done by Moura; and this didn’t happened when I subbed him by arm-triangle. I didn’t know what people said when I faced Machado and Landy-Johns, but their larger experience and their reputation, placed them like the favorites against me. I was very-well trained and I was ready for all of them, this is the routine of my life. To be prepared for any challenge. DM: That fight against Landi-Johns at Jungle FC 6 had a quick outcome. What did you’ve in mind for him? TL: I can tell you I didn’t have in mind to sub him in less than 1 minute, but I was ready for any situation. Fighting all rounds or a quick submission such as I did.
DM: If I’m not wrong, you develop better your game when the pressure is bigger. Right? TL: (laughs) When Moura fought UFC 21 I was a kid(laughs). Well, for me this is not a task to think about. I don’t think about the guy fighting here or there, or if he has 30 or 40 fights. The opponent has two legs and to arms and I guess we’ve the same capacity. Of course the difference can be on the experience, on the technique and on the strength- but in my opinion you need to be trained and you need to believe in your faculties.
DM: Nova Uniao is known like an extraordinary lightweight team, but you’re a middleweight fighter. So how do you manage your trainings with your light teammates? TL: I don’t have problems. We’ve a difference of weight of 10kgs from me to my teammates. But they usually weigh more than they do when they’re fighting. Even they’re light, they’re strong and tough, and of course fast fighters. You can’t imagine how is the speed of the training here, so my stamina is always on the verge. DM: You’re not a Pederneiras’ black-belt. So can you tell a little of your BJJ’s background plus the name of the instructor who gave you the black-belt? TL: I’m a Welton Ribeiro black-belt, I earned it in 2002 and I trained BJJ since 1999. I don’t have huge BJJ awards because when I reached the black-belt I did the transition to the submission and MMA. But my main titles in BJJ are Brasileiro de Equipes 2001, Copa do Mundo 2002, Copa do Brasil 2003 and 3rd place in Mundial and Copa do Mundo 2003. I’ve participation in lot of events, but I didn’t place on the podium in all of them.
DM: Your last international MMA fight was in MARS(2/4) in Japan, so did you expect to fight in Japan again instead USA? TL: I fought 3 times in Hawaii and I got a reasonable fame over my name. Plus the 5 times I fought in Brazil were observed by the American fans. People in Brazil don’t realize that the American fans also pay attention in fight finder to know about the fighters. I expected to fight in Japan again, but I always wanted to fight in UFC, so when this opportunity arose I didn’t hesitate on accepting. DM: On these 3 times you fought in Hawaii you stayed training with BJ Penn. How did this contact with BJ start?
TL: BJ needed teammates to train for this fight against Rodrigo Gracie at ROTR 6 and I stayed in Hawaii for 22 days. After that I returned to fight at ROTR 7, later I commented with BJ I wanted to stay training outside Brazil and he invited me to stay in Hawaii and I kept myself there during 4 months. So I fought there again twice and I acquired a lot of fight and life experience. DM: The MARS’ fight in Japan versus Osami Shibuya was the only fight which went to a decision. What can you describe about that fight? TL: Man, I can’t believe Shibuya didn’t tap. I pressured him on the ground from the mount position and I sunk arm-triangles on him. I realized his breathless breathing and even so he didn’t tap. Butthe “funny” stuff of that fight was that I didn’t watch any footage of him and people who did, told me he was a striker. So I went to take him down, and he had a good on the takedowns defenses, applying a beautiful uchi-mata over me (laughs). This was a tiresome fight where we clinched a lot and I felt the jet-lag. This makes part of the game, I learned the lesson.
DM: What do you think about the middleweight category in UFC?
TL: I think that the next title dispute is more than deserved, Rich Franklin was a great champion and Anderson Silva took that. About the others fights I can’t remember many names now, but I see Evan Tanner, Nate Quarry and Chris Leben like tough competitors. This is what I looked for my whole career- if I want to fight in UFC, I have to take the best fighters. DM: You fought three times in the cage and 6 in the rings. Are you adapted to these two different battle-fields? TL: I don’t see problems in either of them. I think we can defend takedowns more accurately in cages and the bottom position can be a problem. Well, I hope my game of strong clinches be facilitated in the UFC’s cage.
DM: And what do you know about your opponent at TUF 4 – Finale, Martin Kampmann?
TL: Less than I did to my virtual opponent in UFN 7. I watched some highlights of his career and I realized he’s more versatile. Good combos using high kicks and a good 13-2 resume in MMA. I think he’s in the same situation then I do. Because a few events I fought aren’t easy to watch the footages of. Also I’m not used on watching footage of my opponents. I think it can take you to do a few mistakes, I meant maybe you can watch a fight where the opponent won but committed a lot of mistakes. And then he’s working to not repeat the mistakes while you’re working to explore this.
DM: Did you sign a three fight deal to UFC?
TL: Yes, but I only fight for the second time if I beat Kampmann in my first fight. I expect to fight three times and renew the contract. DM: Last words?
TL: The UFC fans can expect a warrior, a brave heart at 11/11 TUF 4 – Finale show. I’ll try to impose my game, and with these great trainings here at Nova Uniao I want to show what the fans wish to see, a show!