UFC light heavyweight Fabio Maldonado is known as a guy that can take a beating and keep on going. One side we haven't seen from him until now is his outspokenness. But that all changed recently. He's been a member of Team Nogueira since 2004, but has now left the gym due to a disagreement with Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira about using the Team Nogueira name on gyms in other parts of Brazil outside of Rio. And he had a lot to say to Combate about the inner workings of the team, some of which doesn't seem very fair overall.
The Combate article is in Portuguese, but Fighters Only translated some of it. Here's the crux of his disagreement about the naming rights of his gym:
"I told Rogerio [Lil Nog] and Eric [Lobao] that I would start an academy but they pretended not to hear me. They would not let me use the name, but others used it for many years," he says.
"Everybody wants to use ‘Team Nogueira.’ He let everybody use that name all over Brazil. They have nothing to say about people not being able to use the name. You take an academy in [a provincial backwater like] Belem do Para, the guy uses it and nobody tells him otherwise.
"Anything they say different from that is a lie. I tell in their faces. I even negotiated, saying ‘well, there are people who used the brand already for more than two years. They told me I couldn’t and that the guys who used Team Nogueira’s name were hand-picked and that I wasn’t one of them.
"They let guys use the name without paying, but not me. [Feijao] was three, four years using it for free, since 2009 Team Nogueira’s name is used in Sorocaba. I was speaking mainly with [Rogerio] Minotouro and Eric Lobao but they were pretending they weren’t understanding me. It would have been easier to tell the truth and say they let Feijao use it and wouldn’t be letting me use it."
Nogueira responded, saying that Rafael Cavalcante made a deal with them but Maldonado couldn't come to terms. He also said that he isn't a part of the commercial side of things and it had little to do with him:
"Maldonado built his own academy, with another brand, with another name, opening a possibility for us to begin our own branch in the city [Sorocaba]. It was a situation which Feijao had interest, came in and made the deal. How could I say no to Feijao?" says Big Nog.
"I missed him, when he left the professional team [in Rio], but this wasn’t about training, it was about the franchise gym. The branch over there is Rafael Feijao’s… I don’t participate much in the commercial side [of Team Nogueira]. I am completely from the technical part. In financial and commercial department I am nobody.
"Maldonado had an opportunity, brought people to make part of the franchise, but it was Feijao who concluded the deal and bought the franchise. It totally was the commercial aspect that dictated it. It was not something personal between Maldonado, Feijao and me, far from it. All commercial dealings don’t pass through me."
Maldonado's response to that was short and to the point:
"Minotauro is lying," he says.
Other parts of the interview weren't translated by Fighters Only, but it's pretty clear what they say. I'll paraphrase so I don't mess up a direct translation, but Maldonado had major beef with Team Nogueira about what fighters had to pay fees to the gym and what fighters didn't. He had to give up some of his purse every time he fought, but guys like Cavalcante, Anderson Silva, and Erick Silva never had a to pay a dime according to Fabio. He pointed out Anderson in particular, saying he did nothing to help Team Nogueira financially, even when Big Nog was having money issues.
He also relayed a story about Anderson embarrassing him in front of his entire team before he was in the UFC. Silva's manager offered him a short-notice fight with Jason Lambert right before Silva fought Chael Sonnen the first time, but he didn't think he could cut 33 pounds in one week so he turned it down. According to Maldonado, Silva ripped him for the decision while the team was out for dinner, accusing him of ducking competition and missing out on a big opportunity. Maldonado said he was forced to tell off Silva in response to his tirade.
Maldonado also talks about being asked by Rodrigo and Rogerio to stay in the US for months at a time to help them or other teammates train for fights, but getting little in return for it. He had a contract for a boxing fight in France, and was about to give up MMA to make a full-time return to boxing, when the UFC offered him a deal. Both contracts arrived on the same day. Even though the boxing contract paid twice as much, he chose the UFC.
Finally, he says that Big Nog is an honest man, but he avoids confrontation. That's why there are no fees being paid by some members, and why guys can use the Team Nogueira name all over Brazil without permission. Maldonado tried to point that out to Big Nog, but instead he was shafted out of using the name himself.
You don't often hear about the inner workings of Brazilian gyms, so I found a lot of this stuff fascinating. It is only one man's side of things (except for the early Big Nog rebuttal), but it definitely makes for an interesting story.