Fabricio Werdum, the former UFC heavyweight champion, has asked for his release from the promotion. Werdum confirmed his intentions Thursday in an interview with Portal do Vale Tudo.
The Brazilian native is currently dealing with a two-year USADA suspension, one that would keep him sidelined until May of 2020.
Speaking with PVT, Werdum said, “My idea is to do the right thing, which would be: rescind my contract with the UFC.”
The 41-year-old added, “I obviously love fighting in the UFC, but after this (situation), this unfair doping, I would like to fight in other promotions.”
Should the UFC grant his release, Werdum has said that he would fight outside of the United States.
“I already told the UFC, I’ll sign a term that I would not fight in the United States anymore… I’d fight overseas, Japan, Russia, Europe, wherever, but I wouldn’t fight in the United States to cause no harm. I would sign that to be released,” he told PVT.
With all of this in mind, here is a look at the possible landing spots for Fabricio Werdum, should the UFC grant his release.
Absolute Championship Akhmat (ACA)
Earlier this year, Absolute Championship Akhmat (ACA) was formed as a result of a merger between two of Russia’s largest MMA organizations, Absolute Championship Berkut (ACB) and World Fighting Championships of Akhmat (WFCA).
It is the latter which makes ACA a likely landing spot for Werdum.
WFCA was founded by Ramzan Kadyrov, a Chechen dictator with whom Werdum has a good relationship. Speaking to MMA Fighting at a media scrum back in 2017, Werdum said, “I’m the ambassador for Chechnya MMA.”
Werdum became an ambassador for Kadyrov’s Akhmat Fight Club back in 2015.
Abdelaziz, speaking on the matter with MMA Junkie, added, “Fabricio was happy to accept what ultimately was a very lucrative offer, but this deal is not just a financial arrangement… He was in Chechnya earlier this year, and he was treated like a king. It was an amazing experience for Fabricio, and the opportunity to partner with Akhmat Fight Club was something he didn’t want to pass up.”
Werdum’s personal, professional, and financial relationships with Kadyrov are strong indicators that ACA is a viable place for the heavyweight to continue his potential post-UFC career.
Should Werdum join the ranks of ACA, he would be instantly elevated to the top of the division, which is currently thriving.
ACA’s heavyweight division features the best contenders from both ACB and WFCA, including Amir Aliakbari (9-1), Denis Smoldarev (13-4), and Dmitry Poberezhets (24-5), among others.
Given Werdum’s credentials, however, it’s much more likely that he receives an immediate title shot. The ACA heavyweight championship is currently vacant, as former ACB champion, Mukhamad Vakhaev (7-4-1), squares off with former WFCA heavyweight champion, Evgeney Goncharov (14-2).
Fighting in ACA would also make good on Abdelaziz’s assertion that Werdum would fight next in Russia.
Russian Cagefighting Championships (RCC)
While less internationally acclaimed than ACA, Russian Cagefighting Championships (RCC) is another Russian promotion at the forefront of a potential Fabricio Werdum sweepstakes.
RCC, led by Russian copper tycoon Igor Altushkin, has been known to sign high-profile heavyweights to one-fight contracts in the past.
RCC (then known as Titov Boxing Promotion) featured ex-UFC veteran Antônio “Bigfoot” Silva, whom they paid an eye-popping $500,000. Just this past February, Russia’s own Sergei Kharitonov fought Joey Beltran under the RCC banner.
With a track record of shelling out big bucks for notable fighters, RCC could be a pivotal player in any potential Werdum sweepstakes. Additionally, fighting in RCC would allow Werdum to compete in Russia.
If Werdum took his talents to RCC, there are several matchups that stand out. Werdum could face Ivan “Ural Hulk” Shtyrkov, the unbeaten, seemingly unstoppable force of a prospect; attempt to avenge a loss to Sergei Kharitonov, should the Bellator fighter opt to fight in RCC again; or challenge Alexander Emelianenko, the controversial brother of the legendary Fedor Emelianenko.
If Werdum doesn’t end up in Russia, the next most likely region to compete in outside of the United States would be Asia.
One of Asia’s most prominent MMA organizations, ONE Championship has dominated recent headlines with splashy acquisitions and ample spending.
The promotion has signed three high-level UFC athletes in the past several months, including the promotion’s former lightweight champion, Eddie Alvarez; top prospect, Sage Northcutt; and pound-for-pound great, Demetrious Johnson.
Werdum would be yet another massive signing for the Singapore-based promotion, and ONE has shown a willingness to open the checkbook for fighters of his caliber and stature.
Joining ONE would also make sense in a sporting sense, as the promotion’s heavyweight division leaves something to be desired.
Outside of the promotion’s current heavyweight champion Brandon Vera, who spent a large portion of his career at light heavyweight, ONE barely maintains a heavyweight division.
Given the promotion’s ability to pay Werdum and the relatively barren nature of their heavyweight division, ONE Championship could be a possible destination for the Brazilian.
Rounding out the list
If ACA, RCC, or ONE don’t pan out, there are several other MMA organizations that appear able to afford Werdum’s services, provide a competitive environment, and exist outside of the United States.
Werdum could sign with KSW, the prominent Polish fighting organization, which has a burgeoning heavyweight division. The promotion is wildly popular in Europe and features Phil de Fries, Karol Bedorf, Erko Jun, Paweł “Popek” Rak, Thiago Silva, and a slew of other heavyweights.
If Asia is Werdum’s favored destination, the Brazilian could sign with RIZIN Fighting Federation, Japan’s foremost MMA promotion. In RIZIN, Werdum could relive his PRIDE FC days, though, as with ONE Championship, there are slim pickings in the heavyweight division.
Michael Fiedel is The Body Lock's deputy editor, a staff writer for FloCombat, and a Russell-Rice scholarship recipient at Vanderbilt University.