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 an 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.
“Truth is I didn’t want to fight,” Filho recently told Portal das Lutas. “At that moment I went to fight because of money and not to break a commitment. It would have been even worse to not have shown up, even being unprepared. I chose to lose rather than make up an excuse and not fight.”
It was reported that Filho was unaware that the fight had ended up to fifteen minutes after its conclusion, but Filho now reports feeling much better and happier about his life after moving back to Copacabana to train under Master Oswaldo Alves.
“I’m feeling really great,” Filho said. “I’m happy again. I’ve found myself, I was lost. Jiu-Jitsu is really important to me and I’m glad to represent it against other arts. I’m a Jiu-Jitsu fighter, when I get in the ring to go toe to toe, you can be sure I’ll always be representing Jiu-Jitsu. I’ve spent my whole life in judo and Jiu-Jitsu, so I think the best school right now is Master Oswaldo’s as he has a very good and effective teaching method. He teaches several tricks, since he is a scholar in the art and a very high quality judoka, everything fits my fighting style well. It is based on judo and Jiu-Jitsu. So I’m at the right place, where my friends are, the great Amaury Bitetti, Gabriel “Hooligan,” Alex and Tico, people who help me a lot and I’m really happy.”
It appears his teammates are happy to be with Filho once again and have great faith in the fighter once tabbed as one of the worlds best middleweights.
“Paulo’s number one,” said BJJ Blackbelt and training partner Amaury Bitetti. “To me he always was and will always be number one, regardless of what happened last fight. He’s a guy with the killer instinct and I know he’ll get back on his feet and will show who he is. He’s valiant, has heart and can beat anyone in his weight group, of that I’m sure. Wherever he may be, I’m there for him, to help.”
Where Filho is now is miles away from where he was months ago and much of that has to do with staying at a healthy weight according to his trainer Josuel Distak
“If he fights at 205lbs in the light heavyweight division everything will be fine,” Distak recently told Tatame. “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.
To that end, expect to see Filho move up in weight to compete at 205lbs. when he makes his return to competitive MMA this April.
“Everything points to April 3rd, in the United States. The event will be broadcast on ESPN, and should be in Las Vegas. I don’t know the name of the event yet, my agent is coming to Brazil will all the papers for me to sign. I just know I’ll fight on the 3rd and I want to get back in the ring.”
The event Filho is referring to is the newly founded Bellator Fighting Championship which will be broadcast live on ESPN Deportes on April 3. No opponent has been announced, but Filho will likely be taking part in one of the promotions eight-man tournaments. The promotion hasn’t yet announced a light heavyweight tournament so Filho could be competing at middleweight against the likes of Hector Lombard, Edwin Aguilar, Daniel Tabera.