Brazilian slugger Maiquel Falcao (26-3 MMA, 1-0 UFC) has a message for the man he was supposed to fight this past March: Be careful what you wish for.
The one-time UFC vet has fully healed from the lingering hand injury that forced him out of a planned UFC on Versus 3 fight with Alessio Sakara (15-8 MMA, 6-5 UFC), but "Big Rig" still remembers the Italian striker's pre-fight comments.
Falcao is now training in a gym in his hometown of Pelotas, Brazil, and eyeing a quick return to action. And while Sakara is currently lined up for a UFC 133 bout with Jorge Rivera, Falcao certainly isn't ruling out a future date with "Legionarius."
"I was especially excited to face Sakara because when the fight was announced, he gave an interview to a website, and he was very disrespectful, saying he would rip my head off," Falcao told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com
). "All I wanted was to go toe-to-toe with him and prove that he is not able to do that with me. I hope we can meet very soon inside the octagon because after I knock him out, I want to ask him, 'What did you say bout my head?'"
Falcao's recent injury woes actually date back to his UFC debut. A broken hand suffered in the opening round of his UFC 123 win over Gerald Harris was never properly treated, and the lingering injury became an issue when he started to train for Sakara.
"In my fight with Harris, the first punch I landed on his head, and I felt something crack in my hand," Falcao said. "It was quite painful until the end of the fight. In the third round, I could not even close my hand properly. After the fight, the pain was horrible, and my hand got swollen. When I got in Brazil, I started to ice it all the time. It was still painful, but I carried on running and working on my cardio.
"When I started training to fight Sakara, I could not even touch the pads with my hand, so I went to the doctor, and the X-ray showed that I had two bones completely broken. I went straight to surgery from there. I had to put three screws in my hand, and right now I am OK, working on my rehab and already training. It was sad having to pull out of the fight, but on the other hand, I was very happy with all the support the UFC gave me during this hard period and all the nice messages from fans worldwide."
Fighters sometimes say time out of the cage can prove highly beneficial, as they are often able to focus on techniques and approaches that can't be drilled when training for a specific opponent. Falcao said he experienced something similar in the mental side of the sport. His injury prevented any type of training outside of conditioning, but it gave him time to make some realizations in his psychological approach to his career.
"Unfortunately, during the time I was off, I could not train properly because of my hand, so I focused on improving my conditioning," Falcao said. "But I believe that this time was very important for my life and career because I could make some very important decisions in my personal life that will make me improve as a fighter, too. I feel much more mature as a fighter and very focused and hungry to fight."
Some of those decisions were in regard to his training process. While there some rumors circling of him making a move to Black House, the middleweight ultimately elected to take a more personal approach to sharpening his skills.
"I don't know where all the rumors started, but the problem is that a lot of people have been talking things about me that are not true lately," Falcao said. "I am training in a training center I have built on my farm in my hometown of Pelotas, and it's there where I will be doing my camp for my next fight. This is one of the changes in my preparation – I will be training in my city inside my farm.
"This will be great for me because in Pelotas I am away from everyone so that I can focus only on training. I will keep two of the coaches that helped me for my last fight, but this time I will be training grappling with Marcelo Brigadeiro, a Luta Livre black belt who is also my manager."
Like all Brazilian-born fighters, Falcao is hoping to secure a slot on August's UFC 134 fight card in Rio de Janeiro. However, he said he currently has no idea exactly when he'll look for his next octagon victory.
"I am waiting for the UFC and my management to decide when I am fighting next," Falcao said. "Of course I would love to fight at 'UFC: Rio' in front of my family, friends and fans. It would be a dream coming true for me be fighting on the biggest event of the planet in my country. Just thinking about it makes me really excited, so hopefully UFC will give me that chance."
When that date finally comes, Falcao promises to deliver an impressive finish and extend his eight-fight win streak.
"The UFC has been amazing to me," Falcao said. "They gave me a lot of support and did not want to rush me back into action before I was fine to train properly. I really felt that the UFC and my managers from Prime Fighters Management and DCA took care of me, and it gave me a lot of confidence to come back.
"I would like to thank the thousands of messages I have been receiving from my fans worldwide showing their support when I had my surgery. I can't wait to be back. You all can be sure I will pay it back with a great performance on my next fight. It will be the best 'Big Rig' you have ever seen."