Rafael Cavalcante Talks Training, Family and Defeating Dan Henderson

Joshua CareySenior Analyst IMarch 5, 2011

On Saturday night, Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio will host Strikeforce—Feijao vs. Henderson for the organizations’ light heavyweight championship.

Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante (10-2), will make his first title defense against a legend of the sport when he defends against former Pride champion, Dan Henderson.

Cavalcante is on a red hot three fight win streak that includes victories over Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal, Antwain Britt and Aaron Rosa.

In preparation for the most high profiled fight of his professional career, Feijao spent time preparing in San Diego, CA at Black House Team Nogueira. The phenomenal training in his home country of Brazil and in America at Black House, has payed dividends throughout his career and according to the champion there are many benefits to preparing at each of the locations.

“All benefits, because we train with different guys,” Fejiao explained. “Sometimes we go there and we have different training partners and coaches. It’s the best you can have, because you learn different things with different people.”

That mindset has proven to be a successful way of thinking for the champion and the years of hard work he has spent learning and improving his game can be seen as a credit to that.

“Yeah. I think of it that way, this is a goal for me to be there and fight against a guy like that,” he said. “I don’t think about the belt all the time and put that weight on my back, I never do it this way and I think about the challenger, because I love to test myself with strong opponents.”

Testing himself against a tremendous opponent is exactly what he will do when he steps foot inside of Nationwide Arena versus Henderson and according to the champion he is excited and would have it no other way.

“Like you said, he’s a legend and this is an honor for me. I’m very excited to fight against Dan Henderson. We have two guys in the academy that fight against him and he’s very tough. I appreciate the way he fights and he always goes to knock the guy out and try to finish the fight,” Cavalcante explained.

“I want to see what I can do against the best guys and that is the way I think. This is like a dream for me and I am training hard and I have a lot of people behind me giving support,” he said. “This is not all about me, it’s about my training partners and team Nogueira. I represent Minotauro and Anderson and we’re all family.”

In speaking with the champion, one can sense the true passion he has for the sport and most importantly, his family, including his coaches, manager and training partners.

One very important member of the family is Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira, who the champion met many years ago in their home country of Brazil. Cavalcante’s manager, Ed Soares, explains how the two world class fighters first came to meet.

“There was a boxing fight in the same town Feijao lives in, Rodrigo got there and said he wanted to find someone to do jiu-jitsu. So, what ends up happening is one of Feijao’s friends says to Rodrigo, “I’ll call Feijao” and all of a sudden Rodrigo calls Feijao, tells him that he’s in town for this boxing event and says that he heard Feijao is pretty good and he wanted someone to train with him,” Soares explained. “So, Feijao says come to my house and Feijao has a whole academy underneath his house. They went there and trained together over the next couple of days and at this point, Minotauro was at the top of his career and the biggest fighter in Brazil.”

“So basically, he was very humble staying at Feijao’s house and eating with his family and he basically said, “I want to bring you to Rio”. Feijao said, “bring me to Rio”? Like, why would you do that you don’t even know me? Rodrigo said, “I just spent two days with your family and I saw how you interact with them and that shows me what kind of person you are”. At the time, Feijao was going to school to be a veterinarian and he was just finishing up school to go into practice. Minotauro went to Feijao’s parents and said, “Don’t be upset with him going to Rio, because I believe he can be champion and if he’s not a champion, I’ll support him the rest of my life.”

Minotauro was indeed correct in his belief that Feijao would one day become a world champion and Cavalcante continues to be a student of the game and expects to successfully make his first title defense by defeating Dan Henderson.

 “After my fights, I see again, again and again to try and improve myself everyday. I see what I do wrong and try to not make the same mistakes again and I think that’s what makes you a better fighter,” Feijao explained. “My next goal is to fight against Dan Henderson and that’s what I’m thinking about every day right now. Go do a good fight and at the end of this fight, I am going to win.”

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