Brunson, a long-time MMA veteran who now competes for the PFL, signed Petrino early in his career — but getting the deal done wasn’t easy.
“It was so crazy,” Petrino said on MMA Fighting’s Trocação Franca podcast. “I was fighting in Dubai and received a text from him saying he was opening an agency to start managing new athletes. I was like, ’Is this really Derek Brunson?’ We talked, but at first I didn’t sign anything. He was starting and I had no clue how he did business, but he reached out again after I won. He said, ‘I’ll put you in the UFC. You have a good record, let’s work together.’ I wrote back, ‘I’ll sign with you if you put me in the UFC,’ and he put me on the Contender Series.”
Brunson told MMA Fighting that being a manager “kind of goes hand-in-hand with fighting”, and he started “looking for fighters about five years ago.” That’s when he ran across Petrino.
“We reconnected when he was about 4-0 or 5-0 and I’ve been managing him ever since,” Brunson said. “He had a couple of fights since and then we got him signed with the UFC, and here he is now, 2-0 with the UFC, looking to go 3-0, and one of the top up-and-coming prospects in the UFC at light heavyweight and also Brazil. Very talented, young guy, hungry, always training hard. I think he has a really big future and can really carry the torch at light heavyweight for Brazil.”
Petrino, now 9-0 as a professional MMA fighter with seven finishes to his credit, said he and Brunson get along greatly despite the language barrier.
“He never leaves me unanswered,” Petrino said. “If I reach out, he responds right away. I need need anything, he makes it work right away. We see a lot of managers in Brazil who only book fights and that’s it. [Brunson] comes and talks about training, he really does the work of a manager there.”
Brunson fought 21 times under the UFC banner before parting ways with the company to join the PFL. As a UFC fighter, Brunson scored victories over the likes of Darren Till, Kevin Holland, Uriah Hall, and Chris Leben. One of the highlights of his career came in Sao Paulo, when he headlined a Fight Night card and knocked out former champion Lyoto Machida in minutes in 2017.
Petrino, who was 2-1 as an amateur MMA athlete when that happened, will fight on that same arena Saturday.
“Damn, I didn’t know that,” Petrino said with a laugh. “I didn’t recall that at all. But that’s cool, man. That’s something good.”
“He’s had those losses in his first UFC run but then he left, won the Cage Warriors title, and came back to win in the UFC, so this is going to be a great fight,” Petrino said. “He doesn’t fight to stall and score points, he gets in there for finishes, so I think it’s a good matchup.
“This fight is not going to a decision. We both hit hard and want to finish fights. I don’t know when it’s going to end, but all I know for sure is that one hand will land or we’ll end up wrestling and I’ll end up submitting him. I’m staying open-minded in terms of strategy to make the most of every situation. I can’t promise a result, but I can promise a show.”