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UFC 193 Open Workouts Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

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Feature: Why are so many UFC veterans signing with Taura MMA? - Part 2

Bloody Elbow’s Lucas Rezende talked to Renan Barao, Antonio ‘Bigfoot’ Silva, Paulo Thiago and Taura MMA’s president to find out.

In the first part of this featured piece, Taura MMA’s president, Djonatan Leao, revealed his promotion’s origins, its aspirations and how their way of valuing fighters makes them stand out from other leagues.

The chairman emphasized how fighter treatment played a big role in attracting athletes to sign with Taura MMA. According to Leao he bet on respect and, of course, some nice—albeit undisclosed—compensation in order to lure fighters in and keep them satisfied.

Former UFC bantamweight champion Renan Barao can attest to Leao’s words on respect and a different kind of treatment. After being released from the UFC on a five-fight losing skid, the Brazilian needed to take some time off to think about what his next step was going to be.

Barao said he did not even want to hear about any proposals for a few months following his latest loss, a December 2019 unanimous decision defeat to Douglas Silva, and consequential UFC release. Once he felt the itch to fight again, though, the 33-year-old says he chose to fight for Taura because of the way he was treated during the negotiations.

“I wanted to give myself a break. I didn’t want to hear any news about other promotions for a while. Lots of people came to me, telling me they wanted me to sign with this or that promotion, but it’s like I’ve been telling all journalists who ask me about this. I came back to my town, I took some time off just to spend quality time with my family and just chill. Then Taura came looking for me. I was feeling relaxed and rested, so I decided to sign with them and be a part of their promotion.”

UFC Fight Night: Barao v Kelleher
Renan Barao of Brazil prepares to enter the Octagon prior to his bantamweight bout against Brian Kelleher during the UFC Fight Night event at Amway Center on February 24, 2018 in Orlando, Florida.
Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

“All I wanted was to come back and fight. I noticed it was a nice promotion. Lots of fighters were signing with them. So I decided to join them. Someone got in touch with me, I was able to tell he was a stand-up guy, he was a man, you know? They are just trying to grow in the sport, like everyone else, holding events. So I decided to join them because of that. They treated me very well, mainly, so that was it.” Barao concluded.

Unlike Barao, who went from the UFC straight to Taura, one-time UFC heavyweight title challenger Antonio Silva tried his luck all over the market following his release from the promotion. From fighting in Russia to giving bare-knuckle boxing a chance at Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship, Bigfoot just wanted to keep on fighting while he still could.

Despite being on a five-fight losing skid and having 10 knockout losses on his MMA record, 11 if you count a BKFC loss against Gabriel Gonzaga, Silva feels healthy enough to still do what he loves.

“I was never concerned about signing with Taura because ‘Rick Monstro’ (UFC vet Richardson Moreira) vouched for them. He is their light heavyweight champion. He only said good things about the promotion, about Djonatan. So I was not concerned at all. I love to fight, I do this out of love. I’m in this sport since I was five years old. It’s in my blood. So me and Djonatan talked for a little bit and shortly after we made a deal.

“I’m no spring chicken anymore,” admitted Silva. “I’m 40. I need to fight as much as I can. Everything in life has a beginning, a middle and an end. So we need to make the best of it while we still have the energy and no career-ending injuries. Consider a great fighter who just had a great win recently, Fabricio Werdum. He is 43. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira is 44 and just had an amazing fight with Shogun. Werdum doesn’t want to stop yet because he thinks he still is physically and mentally healthy to keep going. I’m the same way.

“When I got an offer from a new promotion, a growing promotion, it was an honor for me. That’s a sign I have credibility in the sport. I was very happy and honored to start over in a promotion that has all the potential to turn out great. I want to grow with them and then watch them from the stands and say I was there when they began.”

UFC 193: Hunt v Silva
Antonio Silva walks to the Octagon before facing Mark Hunt at UFC 193 at Etihad Stadium on November 15, 2015 in Melbourne, Australia.
Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Not many men had a UFC debut as impressive as former welterweight contender Paulo Thiago’s. The Brazilian police officer made waves in the division when he knocked out Josh Koscheck with a precise uppercut in the first round of their bout at UFC 95 in February 2009.

A popular name in Brazil for being part of BOPE, a special unit of the country’s military police, which was depicted in the ‘Elite Squad’ movie franchise, Thiago featured in five UFC cards in his home country before his release in 2014.

After taking some fights on the regional and European circuit and trying his hand at politics, Thiago was picked up by Taura just last week. Different than Barao or Bigfoot, Thiago said he was not getting many proposals until he was approached by the new promotion. However, the 39-year-old veteran sees this opportunity as an early investment in something that might become rather big in the near future.

“I had one fight at KSW and lost it. Then they hanged me out to dry. I kept waiting, but they never called me again. Then I went on to fight for other promotions. I also had to take a break because I got injured and then I tried to run for the congress. So a lot of things happened. I didn’t reach out for them (KSW), too.”

UFC 95
Paulo Thiago beat Josh Koscheck by TKO at UFC 95 on February 21, 2009 in London, England.
Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

“They offered me a good contract,” Thiago explained. “Not many promotions are trying to hold cards right now because of the pandemic, so opportunities are reduced. Since Taura came out of nowhere and blew up, I think I got pretty luck to become a member of their roster. It was almost an unknown promotion. I don’t think it’ll be long (before they get big). They have one card coming up in Florida, another one in Atlantic City. They’ve been announcing lots of famous fighters, so I think they’re already big.”

Thiago’s prediction could be interpreted as an optimistic one, but he might actually be on to something, even if he is unaware of it.

When asked about Taura’s plans to become one of the biggest promotions in the world, Leao seemed eager to emphasize how much they have in store for the coming months and the next year. According to him, fans can expect many more big announcements and at least 12 more cards.

“Just to give you an idea, we’ve only announced 30% of what’s to come. Lots of former UFC fighters, former Bellator fighters. High-ranked guys. So far, we have at least 12 cards scheduled for 2021.”

Whether or not Taura MMA’s aspirations will come true, still remains to be seen. But after a hiatus because of the pandemic, they are now working to get back on track in the coming months and put their master plan to work.

Taura MMA’s next card is scheduled for October 23, in Canoas, Rio Grande do Sul. Their first ever international card will be Taura 12, on October 30, in Kissimmee, Florida. That event will mark Bigfoot’s debut, against Brett Martin. The card will be headlined by Richardson Moreira’s title defense vs. an undisclosed opponent.

Renan Barao’s debut is scheduled for Taura’s next USA card, on November 21, in Atlantic City, New Jersey. His opponent is yet to be determined.

Among Taura MMA’s other signings of UFC vets are Rousimar Palhares, Gleison Tibau, Fabio Maldonado, Guto Inocente, The Ultimate Fighter Brazil alumni Willam Macario and Daniel Sarafian, and TUF 8 champion Efrain Escudero.

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