Michael Bisping also trained in Vale Tudo, it's definitely applicable when it comes to MMA. Make sure that wherever you go, the coaches have real experience in training people that actually compete or that they've competed themselves. Also, make sure that they cater for people of different abilities. You should definitely go along and check out a session before joining and talk to people who use the place. I'd be very wary of any place that wants you to pay up front for yearly membership fees. Here in Blackpool, you pay £10 once a month for membership and it's £5 for each session attended. Good luck with your training mate, I hope you find somewhere decent.
Out of interest, what part of the country are you from?