Fabricio Werdum Fueled by Underdog Status Against Cain Velasquez at UFC 180

Duane Finley@duanefinleymmaContributor IAugust 28, 2014

Apr 19, 2014; Orlando, FL, USA; Fabricio Werdum celebrates a victory in his heavyweight fight during UFC on FOX 11 at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

Fabricio Werdum is a man driven by being counted out.

Throughout his impressive career as a mixed martial artist, the savvy Brazilian grappling ace has found himself facing seemingly impossible odds—being counted out to such a degree many wondered why he would bother showing up—but it just so happens Vai Cavalo is an athlete who shines under those circumstances.

Werdum isn't here to be another addition to a legendary resume; he's here to solidify a legacy of his own.

While his "shock the world" moment against Fedor Emelianenko—a fighter largely recognized as the greatest heavyweight of all time—back in 2010 certainly got the attention of the MMA community, it wasn't where the story ended for the 37-year-old Kings MMA representative.

There is no doubting his submission victory over The Last Emperor that night in San Jose will go down as one of his greatest achievements, but Werdum has his sights set on other goals still resting on the horizon.

For the better part of a decade, Werdum has dreamed of becoming the UFC heavyweight champion, and his time since defeating Emelianenko has reflected that ambition. In the four years that have followed, the Rafael Cordeiro-trained fighter has won four of his five outings, with his four most recent victories coming in consecutive fashion under the UFC banner.

Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

A run that consisted of wins over Roy Nelson, Mike Russow and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira put Werdum on the verge of title contention, but it was his victory over Travis Browne at UFC on Fox 11 back in April that certified him as the No. 1 contender to the crown. While he wasn't facing Fedor-esque odds going into the bout with Hapa, few in the MMA community were willing to give Werdum much of a chance. 

He was coming off a lengthy stint on the sidelines heading into Orlando, Florida, and facing an opponent in Browne who had been destroying top-ranked opposition inside the Octagon. In that matchup, Werdum appeared to be the final steppingstone to Browne's ascension to title challenger, but when the chips are stacked against him, that's when Werdum is at his best.

Not only did he defeat Browne at UFC on Fox 11, but he did so on the feet where the Hawaiian is at his strongest. From the opening bell until the last, Werdum put on a striking clinic as he battered the Jackson/Winkeljohn-trained fighter for the entirety of the 25-minute affair. The end result was one of the most impressive showings of his career and a shot at the reigning heavyweight king Cain Velasquez.

In facing the AKA staple, Werdum will once again be facing ominous odds and stepping in against a man who has looked nearly invincible when the cage door closes. Yet, these are the moments he covets, and Werdum is determined to shock the world once again.

"I have been waiting for this moment for so long, and I want this so much," Werdum told Bleacher Report. "I want to show the world I am ready for this challenge. This fight right now is the best thing that could ever happen to me. Maybe before I wasn't ready, but I am going to show the people just like I have shown them before. I showed them with Fedor. I showed them with Travis Browne. Now, I'm going to show them with Cain Velasquez."

Apr 19, 2014; Orlando, FL, USA; Fabricio Werdum (red gloves) fights Travis Browne (blue gloves) before their heavyweight fight during UFC on FOX 11 at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

In addition to his upcoming collision with Velasquez at UFC 180 on November 15 in Mexico City, the two heavyweight juggernauts also served as coaches for the inaugural season of The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America. For Werdum, it was his second stint as a coach on the reality-based fighting program and another chance for him to serve as a representative of a sport that has gone global in its 20 years of existence. And those are the things that matter to him at this point in his career.

After a loss to a then-unknown Junior dos Santos lost him his place on the UFC roster back in 2008, Werdum has been on a mission of progress. He can fully embrace the fact there was a time where he wasn't ready to be the best heavyweight in the world, but all the work he's put in over the past six years has been about getting to the place he now stands and ready to take the final step to achieve his ultimate goal.

Granted, there is a monster of an opponent in Velasquez standing in his path, but Werdum wouldn't have it any other way.

"This means a lot to me because I wasn't ready to be the champion back in those days when they took me out of the UFC," Werdum said. "Now, becoming the champion is something I really want for my career and my family. I want to show everyone I've learned a lot since then and I am very mature in my career right now. 

"I love challenges. It motivates me so much when people think I'm not going to win. I want to show them they are wrong."


Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.