Making Waves in the Octagon
© Marc Wickert
All photos copyright 2004 Zuffa LLC
Photography by Joshua Hedges


Born in Rio de Janeiro, Renato Verissimo was playing water polo in 1987 when his teammates encouraged him to join their Brazilian Jiu Jitsu classes.

"My friends went to train in Jiu Jitsu at the time, and Iíd done some Judo and water polo during high school, so I went to Jiu Jitsu just for fun. As it turned out, I kept going to the classes, but all my friends stopped," says Verissimo.

Renato went on to become a BJJ blackbelt instructor, later moving to Hilo, Hawaii, where BJ Penn became one of Renatoís students. When BJ started competing in the Octagon, Renato also became involved in Mixed Martial Arts. Verissimo then made his own Octagon debut at UFC 46 against MMA veteran Carlos Newton, with Renato winning by unanimous decision.

"It was a good fight. Iíd trained for that kind of fight for so long. I saw Carlos in í97 competing in the same competition I was in, called Contenders. Soon after that he started competing in MMA, and then I saw him again after so long. This time we were fighting each other. In í97 we fought different opponents."

Renato Verissimo vs Matt Hughes

Verissimo returned to the Octagon at UFC 48 to fight Matt Hughes. Although Matt won the bout by decision, many thought the decision could have gone either way. But Renato isnít too concerned about a rematch.

"As far as attacking is concerned, I think I tried to do a little bit more than Matt did. But I think it was a bit of a wake-up call for the judges. I think they need to follow some sort of rules or agenda when judging, because I donít think they have any ground contact experience. But itís a pretty new sport, and you donít really believe what other people say, anyway.

"I would welcome a rematch with Matt, but if he fights the same way that he fought me last time, I will choose somebody else. But if he comes out to fight, and show everybody how good he thinks he is, that would be great. I would definitely fight him again. I definitely fought pretty bad, so Iíve got to go there myself and show that I can fight much better than I did. And I believe he can fight better than he did."

Renato is a person who enjoys life, and even displays a boyish smile before entering the Octagon to do battle. Whilst many other competitors put hours into fitness training at the gym, Verissimo works his cardio by practising his favourite pastimes: surfing, hiking and cycling.

"Iíve always been an outside guy, and I donít like to put too much time into the gym. Sometimes I do. Sometimes I do gym work. But for preparing for a fight, I donít really need that, because my life has always involved swimming and outside activities. For my fighting style, Iím not the kind of guy who needs to do 700-lb squats. Iíve just got to be able to use my reach and my technique.

Renato Verissimo ready for UFC 50

" To be honest, Iím maybe lazy for the gym, but I love to go hiking and do climbing. I used to do a lot of climbing in Brazil. I think those things are betterÖnot being out of contact with natureÖswimming in the ocean. I think they give you some extra kind of power for your mind. I kind of believe in those sort of things."

Renato was heavily into body boarding in Rio, but put surfing on hold for five years to focus on BJJ competition. When he moved to Hawaii, Verissimo took to the waves again and now incorporates the surfing in his cardio training for the Octagon. He says heíd be happy to mix business with pleasure and catch a few waves in Australia if any promoters are interested in bringing him out for a seminar circuit.

"I have a friend in Australia who keeps telling me about the surf spots there. So I always keep it in my mind. Right now Iím focused on training for my upcoming UFC and BJJ fights, but Iím going to put a little more effort into getting the word out that I really miss doing seminars and teaching. When I first moved to the States I concentrated on seminars from í97 until about 2001. After that I was mainly into the training, but I really feel like doing the seminars again - meeting some good people and sharing some techniques. Itís always enjoyable. If any promoters in Australia are interested, my surf trips can get in sooner that way."

Renato Verissimo vs Carlos Newton

Renato, how many times per day do you train?

"For competitions, usually two times a day. Yeah. Before it used to be more, but for this sport, you've got to really take care of your body. It's not like Jiu Jitsu where you can train three times a day. The chance of getting hurt in MMA is pretty high, so I train twice a dayÖonce a day. I do some cardio, some techniques. I like to do techniques over and over. And at nights I do hand work, or ground work. I just go with the flow."

The nickname "Charuto", what does that mean?

"Charuto is a cigar. Back when I was competing in water polo, there were two of us named Renato. I was taller and skinnier than the other guy. I was tanned and really dark from body boarding all the time. So the coach looked at me and said, ĎOh, you look like a cigarí, and called me Charuto."

What do you expect from Frank Trigg?

"I think heís going to try more. I donít think heís the type of guy whoís going to be worrying about strategy too much. Heís going to try to play his game, I think. Hopefully, heís going to come out to fight. Thatís the only thing I wish happened with Hughes. People try to take me down and keep holding and holding. So hopefully heíll come to fight and not worry that something might happen. Iím going to do my best to be more aggressiveÖmore that I did with Hughes and Newton.

"So hopefully Frank will try more, but heís a good wrestler and he doesnít have bad hands. But as far as taking a punch, I know I can take his punch, but heís going to have a hard time taking mine. But of course, Iíll always be ready for his takedown. Like I say, the fight is so unpredictableÖIím more prepared this time. My hand feels way better than when I fought Hughes: My thumb wasnít the best and I couldnít train to my best ability. But everything is going well this time and hopefully it will stay that way."

Renato Verissimo vs Carlos Newton

How will you win this fight?

"Itís hard to say. Thatís what I think heís going to be concerned about. I can submit him, I can trade with him to the point where I can knock him out. Whatever he can do in a fight I think I can match him. I don't think he's had the chance to train on the ground with the same calibre of people. He can hold me down, but for flexibility, strength and technique, I think Iím going to be the greatest challenge heís had. But hopefully itís going to be a good fight."

Renato, is there anything youíd like to add to this article?

"I just want to say thanks to the fans and to all the people who get behind me:
Fokai Clothing,, Dahui, and Split."

Renato Verissimo vs Carlos Newton


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