Rodolfo Bellato makes his UFC debut this Saturday at UFC Austin against the man who spoiled Mauricio Rua’s retirement bout earlier this year, but doesn’t view the match as an opportunity to avenge the Brazilian legend.
Ukraine’s Ihor Potieria stopped “Shogun” at UFC 283 in Rio de Janeiro, knocking out the former Pride FC and UFC legend in the first round. Bellato debuts in the UFC after racking up a 11-2 record with two appearances on the promotion’s Contender Series, the latter of which earned him a UFC deal with a second-round finish over Murtaza Talha in October.
“I’m a big fan of ‘Shogun’ and the work he’s done since Pride,” Bellato said on MMA Fighting’s Trocação Franca podcast. “He’s an idol in Brazil and worldwide. I won’t say it’s vengeance or anything like that, but I’ll show [Potieria] that Brazil is Brazil. We’ll go there and get that victory. No vengeance, but show him that we had a legend in ‘Shogun’ and we also have new talent coming up, and I plan on one day making history just like ‘Shogun’ did.”
Bellato said Potieria will be his first southpaw opponent in MMA, and a very aggressive one that deserves respect. That being said, he plans on adding another stoppage to his résumé.
“He likes to take his time, meanwhile I’m very aggressive,” Bellato said. “I think it’s a good matchup for me. He won’t be able to stay calm for much longer because I’ll put pressure all the time, walking forward, and he’ll get lost eventually. He’s a complete fighter, 20 wins and many knockouts and submissions, so I have to respect him. I’ve trained hard on the feet and on the ground and I’m sure I’ll get the best of him wherever we go.”
Bellato made a name for himself while training at Team Nogueira before joining KO Squad alongside former Strikeforce champion Rafael Cavalcante and fellow prospect Jonas Bilharinho in Rio de Janeiro. On top of that, the ex-LFA light heavyweight titleholder traveled to the United States this past September to help UFC light heavyweight champion Alex Pereira prepare for his 205-pound MMA debut against Jan Blachowicz.
“It was an amazing experience,” Bellato said. “I knew ‘Poatan’ already but didn’t know Glover [Teixeira], and it was incredible experience to share a house with ‘Poatan’, Glover, and Plinio [Cruz]. I’ve learned a lot from them. That has made me more mature.”
The UFC rookie said he was impressed by Pereira’s strength and “absurd” power in his right hand as a light heavyweight, and not at all surprised to see Pereira beat Blachowicz and then claim the vacant UFC championship with a knockout of Jiri Prochazka. If Jamahal Hill is next in line for the belt, Bellato expects “Poatan” to remain on top for much longer.
“When I put my hands on him, and he was at 220 pounds at the time, I said like, ‘Man, this guy is going to give them trouble in this division,’” Bellato said. “He’s going through an absurd moment in his career and has all this confidence and timing. I think Jamahal Hill will be an excellent matchup for him. Jamahal said he wants to stand with him, that this isn’t kickboxing, but it will be complicated for Jamahal Hill if he wants to trade with [Pereira].”