Maximo Blanco Leaves Sengoku, Eyes UFC and Strikeforce

via mattfaler.files.wordpress.com

Sengoku break-out star Maximo Blanco spoke to MMAWeekly.com recently, and there are some interesting bits of info here. The Venezuelen Lightweight fighter confirms that he has left Sengoku, and is now looking to make his name in the US. Blanco has signed with US based management company SuckerPunch Entertainment, and is hoping they can help him as he looks to make his stateside debut. SuckerPunch represents some quality, upper level fighters, including UFC names like Pat Barry and Donald Cerrone, plus fighters for Strikeforce, Bellator, and various other organizations. 

If you have never seen Blanco fight, you are missing out. The man is a joy to watch, bringing a wild intensity to his fights. A 3 year pro, Blanco has put together a record of 8-2-1 with 1 No Contest. His early fights were particularly crazy affairs, full of stomps, slams, and some overeager illegal strikes that earned him one No Contest and one DQ loss. Since that DQ in 2009, he's become a bit more focused, and has gone 6-0 over the past two years. He has fought exclusively in Japan so far, starting off with the long-standing Pancrase organization. But it is in Sengoku where Blanco really started to shine, earning a series of solid wins, including a victory over Strikeforce fighter Rodrigo Damm.

While Blanco would make an exciting addition to whatever organization lands him, it will be a real test for him to make the move to the US. There's no doubt the level of competition is now higher over here, and the Lightweight division is particularly stacked no matter where you go. In the UFC especially, Blanco could easily become lost in the deep Lightweight waters. One plus going for him is his strong wrestling background. Blanco was a Bronze medalist in Freestyle wrestling at the 2007 Pan American games, and this wrestling would be a huge asset against the numerous wrestlers currently grinding opponents out in the UFC. Still, I'd be interested in seeing him drop down to Featherweight. When he won the Bronze it was all the way down at 60kg (around 132 pounds). He's bulked up since then, but I think could still make the cut, and would have a much bigger impact on the more open field at Featherweight. Also, as a Featherweight, he's make a particularly good addition to the UFC, who could use more exciting, top international talent to bolster this fledgling division.

For now though, it looks like he is staying focused on Lightweight. In the interview, Blanco calls out a few names as potential opponents, including Clay Guida and Josh Thomson. As for fighting Strikeforce champion Gilbert Melendez, who holds a win over Thomson, Blanco says, "For some reason, for me, I think Thomson is a tougher opponent."

The one negative news to come out of this is the continuing slow demise of Sengoku. The Japanese organization announced earlier this year that their top sponsor had dropped out, and that, barring any miracle last minute sponsor coming through, they were effectively done. Already in 2011 they have lost some of their highest profile international names, including Jorge Santiago, Dave Herman, and now Blanco. Maxi had this to say regarding Sengoku:

I really like SRC, and they have supported me over the last couple years and I truly appreciate that. So if SRC continued then I would have stayed in Japan and fight for them, but since they are basically done, as a pro MMA fighter, I had to look into fighting outside Japan.

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