Paulo Filho, not long ago, was considered among the top two middleweights on the planet. Filho blew through 16 straight opponents en route to a WEC middleweight title and world wide recognition as a pound for pound great.
But things began to unravel shortly after his first title defense; a controversial win over Chael Sonnen via referree stoppage due to verbal submission. Sonnen contended that he didn’t give a verbal submission while being held in the armbar, and the fight, due to the controversy, was set for an immediate rematch to be held on March 14 at WEC 34.
The fight never materialized however, as Filho revealed that he was checking himself into a substance abuse rehab facility for a very serious addiction to painkillers.
The two eventually met again on Nov. 5 at WEC 35, but Filho was a shell of himself. He came in four pounds overweight and often appeared confused and misguided during the three round affair. Filho stumbled around the cage allowing himself to be hit at times without defending himself and talked out loud to no one in particular throughout the fight.
It was reported that Filho was unaware that the fight had ended up to fifteen minutes after its conclusion.
The road to opiate addiction can be a long and arduous one; many have questioned whether the clearly afflicted Filho should have even been medically cleared to that fight that night; but Filho did fight and he lost more than just his unbeaten record.
The former pound for pound great lost his belt, his affiliation with the UFC and perhaps his career in MMA.
Filho is now fighting the greatest battle of his life. It remains to be seen whether he can beat his addiction and again rise to the top of the MMA world, but after another stint in rehab he’ll be cleared to train again on Jan. 20 according to his trainer Josuel Distak.
“Paulo is recovering. The doctors gave him a deadline and I think he’ll return to training on January 20. He’s under medical supervision and he’ll recover from this depression… 2009 will be a different year for Paulo.”
If Filho does return it will be different in many ways, as the former middleweight champion will likely return as a light heavyweight.
“If he fights at 205lbs in the light heavyweight division everything will be fine. It’s really up to his doctor and what he thinks is the best course of action. When he loses too much weight, he has physical, mental, and emotional stress, so we’ll wait for his doctor to decide.”