A mixed martial arts career is basically the same for many competitors around the world. Before joining the mainstream of the sport, you have to pass through a bunch of different scenarios in all aspects of the sport, with the traditional road of defeats, victories, draws and no contests surrounded by crazy and dramatic stories which forge the fighters for the next big step.
However, only a handful of men, or maybe only Luis "Beicao" Ramos - the newcomer who debuts at UFC RIO this weekend against fellow countryman Erick Silva, won a fight by taking a beatdown.
No, you didn't read that the wrong way - the first MMA bout for the Nova Uniao member saw Ramos score his first victory by eating strike after strike.
"Let me explain first," he opens up by defending himself. "In a sequence of changes I ended up fighting a heavier guy after I cut weight to face the original opponent. Plus, with no MMA experience, it made my night a long one when someone mounted and smashed my face."
Rogério Sagate, a 192 pound fighter, pounded on Ramos from the mount position for at least five minutes. The debutant opted for a suicidal strategy by clinching the bigger and stronger opponent, who dragged him to the ground, falling in mount. For Ramos, the plan was simple - fight fire with fire, landing strikes from the bottom. But as the guy on top connected more, to Ramos' credit he never thought about surrender.
"I was very nervous, and I think because of it I didn't try to exchange from the outside and instead I tried to body lock him; I didn't want to be knocked out badly in my first fight," Ramos said. "But the guy was 100 times stronger than me and controlled me easily. He busted my face for five uninterrupted minutes and gassed out. He gave up by exhaustion."
It was one of those cases where you’re a bit reluctant to say "a win is a win." But Ramos took the traumatic experience with a smile on a damaged face, as he explained how he won his first fight while hearing the laughs of his teammates who were in the arena.
"That fight was two eight minute rounds and I was prepared to sustain the punishment until an opening came. Anyway, the fight changed my life."
Of course it changed it, because the then-Ruas VT system fighter wanted to taste a real victory. He waited nearly two years until he stepped into an MMA ring again, so before that, it was time for a little more sharpening of his game.
The kid who started Muay Thai workouts with the Barros Bros (Aloisio (ZST vet.) and Alexandre (UFC vet.)) in the mid-90s, gained notoriety from his first two masters due to his dedication and will power. The brothers were pupils of UFC 7 champion Marco Ruas, so joining the recently built Ruas VT System was a consequence of the hard work of Ramos.
Training wrestling and Muay Thai at RVT and Luta livre in Budokan, Ramos recalls those
times. The sport was still looking for its identity - no holds barred or MMA - so the sparring sessions followed whatever was demanded. Different gloves, or no gloves, and small pads with guys like Pedro Rizzo, Renato Sobral, Gustavo Machado, Rodrigo Ruas, Marcos Ruas and the Barros bros were a lot to deal with for a teenager with a lot of heart.
"It reminds me of sore shins, bruises and a lot of lessons that came with the suffering," he laughs. "The training finished and I badly wanted tomorrow to come quickly because I wanted to spar again."
You can imagine that this guy was now ready to dispatch his next opponent. But it didn’t work out like that. By accepting a second fight in a category that he didn't belong (198 pounds), Ramos lost once again, by decision. The taste of a real victory only came in 2004, when he decided to be a welterweight and smashed his opponent in mere 1:00 of combat.
The decision of fighting as a 170 pounder seemed to cure what was lacking in Ramos' career. He lost the fight after that first win, but then compiled a 7-1 record, avenging his
only defeat to the Pride Bushido veteran Luciano Azevedo.
Ramos was struggling a lot to put together a good winning streak during his career, and after a good run in the 2005-2006 season, he grabbed a four fight sequence three years
later. One of Ramos' triumphs was superb - a second round TKO over the then untouchable South American Shooto 168 pound champion, Igor Fernandes.
Things were right where they should be until powerful strikes decimated Ramos as he accepted a fight 20 days later and paid for it by being KO'd in 50 seconds.
"Some asked if I underestimated Pedro Iriê and took a KO because of it, but I just was confident he wasn't going to whoop me. All merits for him, I needed to get back to the
gym and train."
That wasn't the only reason to get back to the gym, as Ramos was sent to the finish line for those Brazilians who wanted an international opportunity. Once he beat Fernandes, the Shooto promoters wanted to know how he would fight with the belt on the line. Ramos took the opportunity, becoming the champion by beating a tough guy named Marcelo Brito in 2009, and then meeting Fernandes again. This time it was for the Shooto belt.
"I should have fought (submission ace) Shinya Aoki, but he dropped weight," he said. "Takuya Wada and Shiko Yamashita were well ranked but had other commitments; the next after them was my teammate Hernani Perpetuo, so I ended up facing Fernandes for the third time."
The fight wasn't good though, as both guys knew each other very well, making the bout a
complicated chess match. It was a better scenario for Ramos, who came across like the champion after the three rounder.
He lost once again after that fight via decision by not taking the aggressor’s role against UFC vet Roan Carneiro in Holland. And that last defeat was crucial to Ramos staying
confident in what his coaches tell him all the time.
"Late Carlson Gracie Sr black belt Ari Galo, André Pederneiras, the Barros bros, and José
Aldo say to me, 'trust in your Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, your takedowns, your strikes - trust your potential,'" he said. "Of course I wanted to finish fights all the time, but something holds me. I'm entering the UFC with a good mindset to not allow the lack of aggressiveness to be an Achilles heel."
By what we saw in his last three fights, the man learned from these tips, winning a four man tournament and then submitting his last opponent. So Ramos now enters the Octagon against Silva in a very interesting matchup. Even though they're debutants, Silva trains with "Minotauro" Nogueira, Anderson Silva, Rafael Cavalcante, Ronado "Jacaré" Souza and Rogerio "Minotouro" Nogueira among others. Ramos has heavy artillery by his side too, with Jose Aldo, Ronny Markes, Diego Nunes, Renan Barao, Johnny Eduardo, Marlon Sandro and many others. This can not only be a battle of who won't feel the jitters and move well after the first step, but a challenge of who absorbed more experience from their well-rounded peers before the opening bell.
"This will be a test of fire for both of us," Ramos said. "I know Silva well, and we met before in wrestling competitions, but participated in different weight classes. Maybe he has the small advantage of training for this fight for the last 90 days, and I've been preparing for around 20. But I want to prove my point like he does as well, so the time has come, let's do it!"
After Ups and Downs, Luis Ramos Wants to Jump Higher
"This will be a test of fire for both of us." - Luis Ramos