Being almost five years away from the rings, Vinícius Draculino is now back. At the age of 39, the leader of Gracie Barra BH, who graduated champions like Rômulo Barral, Rafael Sapo, Joaquim Mamute, Cristiano Titi, among many others, was chosen to fight on Strikefore on August 21. “There’s been a while since I last fought… I went to watch a show in Houston, they asked me if I was interested, and I thought: “it’s like if there was going to be the biggest party of the year and I was invited but choose not to go”, told Draculino. On a quick trip to Brazil, the black belt, who currently lives on the United States, gave an exclusive interview to TATAME’s website, on which he talked about his comeback to the rings, analyzed his opponent, Rocky Long, and commented the expectations for the debut of his pupil, Rafael Sapo, on UFC. Check the interview here below.
For everybody’s surprise, you were announced by Strikeforce. How did this opportunity come?
I went to watch a show in Houston, they asked me if I was interested, and I thought: “it’s like if there was going to be the biggest party of the year and I was invited but choose not to go”. I want to join this big party and let’s see what will come. I’m training, I believe I can get there in a good shape in order to do a good presentation.
When did you last fight?
It’s been a long time, five years.
And all of that due to injuries?
My knee. I was ready to fight in many occasions, but unfortunately I got hurt in two of them, but now I’m feeling a lot better, thanks God, doing what I can, but let’s go. I’m training, I’ve lost some weight, but I still have some extra pounds, and I’m feeling heavy.
On which division do you intend to fight?
On the until 65kg.
You were away of the competitions for so long that some thought you have retired…
I haven’t fought for a while, but I’m not retired. I competed without kimono in 2008, there were two events: one of them was the Mundial without kimono, but I was structuring my gym, so I wasn’t much focused. Now I’m training hard, I was working on my conditioning without even knowing anything, just because I was feeling like doing it and when I had the opportunity, since I was feeling fine, I thought: “Why not?” Let’s bang a while over there.
After that you intend to do other fights?
Man, I’ve learned I should never say ‘never’. I don’t know, we’ll see. I’m feeling fine. In fact, I’m feeling great. My conditioning is better than these kids’, but it’s that same old thing… I’m not doing it for the money, I’m not doing it for the fame, that’s not it. I’m doing it because I feel like doing it. It’s complicated, it’s like an addiction, get it? I feel like doing it again, i started to feel it on my nerves again and my wife said: “Do your last one, just to say goodbye”. I say I din’t know, so let’s see (laughs).
How old are you now?
I’ll be 39 next Saturday. It’s not 39, it’s more like 3.9 (laughs).
Do you know your opponent? What do you know of his game?
I know him. He’s one of the most MMA famous athletes, he fought like 40 times. The guy is really experienced, but he hold more loses than wins, he comes from boxing and his Hispanic- American. Because he comes from boxing, it’ll be hard to knock him out. His fights usually goes to the judges round card decision, he’s hard to be taken down, but his ground game doesn’t seem to be very good.
What strategy will you use?
The tactic is that he’ll thing I’ll grab him, but I’ll punch him right on his face (laughs). When he thinks we’ll bang, I’ll bring him to my area, if God helps me.
Your pupil, Rafael Sapo, signed a contract with UFC. What is your expectation for his debut?
I told you, man. Sapo is very dedicated, he’s currently living in NY, and I go there when he has a fight to adjust few details. He’s well accessorized over there with Renzo Gracie, (Ricardo) Cachorrão, so he’s always ready. He’s very dedicated and focused. UFC is a complicated event because you can never know the level of your opponent. But I believe he has plenty conditions to make a good fight, he’s on his best phase ever. On his last fight, he made a great show and almost killed Travis (Lutter), he dominated and got a knockout on the first round. I have other pupils who are about to fight too… There’ll be Brazil Fight now in Belo Horizonte and six of my pupils will fight on it: there’s (Cristiano) Titi, Coelho, (Marcelo) Uirapuru, Thiago… We’ve set a great team, there’re some great foreigners there too, there’s a lightweight who has been unbeaten for four fights and maybe we’ll put him on WEC, so everything’s going just fine, thanks God. It’s their fault I’m in a good shape.
You have some MMA athletes and others who are focused on Jiu-Jitsu. How do you deal with these different trainings?
Man, my team has always been well structured, thanks God. I was never the guy who puts obstacles on people’s work. My main worry is about making a very structured team. I leave it in the hands of Marcelo, who is the General Coordinator, but there’s also Sérgio, Coelho, Caloquinha, Mauro… The guys make the trains perfect for the students. I come here about three times a year, so that’s great. It’s their merit too because they’re very dedicated, so it’s cool.
Now will you go to the United Stated or will you stay in Belo Horizonte training?
I came here a week ago and I’m feeling fine. The boys were impressed with my conditioning, and I’m feeling great. I’ll go to the United Stated because I have some exams to do for the Athletic Commission. On Texas, if you’re old, they tell you to do so many exams that it takes you like three days just getting examined (laughs). If God helps me, I’ll do it good. There this thing now, right? I have to pass this test, but I believe I can.