The name Paulo Filho (23-4) is synonymous with many things: submission excellence, capriciousness, controversy, disappointment, and unfulfilled potential.
The latter aspect is a risk-encumbered resource that MMA's most prominent new fight league will attempt to tap into. The World Series of Fighting promotion has added former WEC middleweight champion and Pride FC standout Paulo Filho to their burgeoning roster. MMAWeekly's Damon Martin broke the news yesterday.
Filho is a longtime Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt under the great Carlson Gracie who later became a staple of the renowned Brazilian Top Team. Before transitioning to MMA in the year 2000, Filho cemented his submission prowess as a 3-time Brazilian National Champion and 3-time World Champion in sport grappling. His MMA career started ablaze with 16 straight wins that were propelled by Filho's tenacious combination of takedowns and positional dominance on the canvas.
Filho secured an elite world ranking -- somewhere in the top 5 and, in some cases, as high as #1 -- after he advanced to the finals of Pride Fighting Championship's 2006 World Welterweight (161 to 183 pounds) Gran Prix. He'd notched impressive finishes by armbar over Ryo Chonan and Kazuo Misaki but was forced out of the tournament's championship match with an injury.
Still undefeated at the time, Filho set up shop with the WEC and accrued the vacant middleweight championship in his promotional and stateside debut with a 1st-round TKO of veteran Joe Doerksen. The pair of title defenses against the inimitable Chael Sonnen that followed would be the most memorable and distinguishing of Filho's career: the first went Filho's way via submission, though the outcome was contentious as Sonnen never tapped but cried out in pain whilst locked in a deep armbar, which the unified rules deem as justification for a stoppage. Then the weirdness ensued.
Filho was slated to rematch Sonnen at WEC 33 but decided his presence would be better suited at a Brazilian rehab facility to treat maladies of depression and substance abuse. The bout with Sonnen was rescheduled for WEC 36, which would ultimately mark the sharp downturn of his once lustrous career. Filho was unable to make weight and the 5-round championship fight was adjusted to a non-title 3-rounder that was punctuated by Filho's bizarre and concerning demeanor. The typically frenetic aggressor seemed excessively distracted and altogether vacant en route to a dud of a decision loss that subsequently inspired his walking papers.
Though he signed with Japanese promotion DREAM and rebounded with a promising 1st-round armbar over Melvin Manhoef at DREAM 10, the on-and-off perplexities continued when he pulled out of a DREAM 12 match; then, after a decision over Alex Schoenauer and 1st-round submission of Tatsuhiko Nishizaka under the Bitetti Combat banner, did so again at Bitetti Combat 6, this time citing personal problems. After a dramatic barrage of myriad explanations for his behavior surfaced, Filho announced his intentions to retire in October of 2011 but returned in September of 2012 and scored a 1st-round strike stoppage over Murilo Rua.
The World Series of Fighting (WSOF), which is captained by New Zealand kickboxer and MMA fighter Ray Sefo, hosted their inaugural event in November of 2012. The 10-fight lineup was anchored by prior UFC talent such as former heavyweight champ Andrei Arlovksi, who defeated Devin Cole in the headliner, and respectable names like Anthony Johnson and Miguel Torres. WSOF is planning their yet-to-be-announced sophomore effort for sometime in February of 2013. No word has been given on Paulo Filho's debut date or opponent.