So much for the conventional wisdom that Brazilian mixed martial arts fighters are Jiu Jitsu specialists who eventually learn to throw a punch. In the UFC, Anderson Silva is currently the King of Hill, a fighter more feared for his stand-up than his ground game.
In the International Fight League, Rio native and undefeated flyweight Wagnney Fabiano has won all five of his fights by submission, but not before cracking his opponents with punches, kicks and knees. Fabiano will be in action when the IFL returns to New Jersey's Izod Center on April 4 at 7:30 p.m., live on HDNET.
Here, "The Silencer" tells SI.com all the details:
SI.com: What is the strongest aspect of your game?
Fabiano: I have a long background of jiu jitsu in Brazil, so my ground work has always been my strength. I especially like the chokes. I love choking guys out. I have always admired the great boxers, like (Oscar) De La Hoya, and someday I hope to strike as hard as they do. I hear I am a top-five ranked fighter now, but my goal is to be No. 1 in the IFL and then the world.
SI.com: What aspect of your game needs improvement?
Fabiano: I have been training a lot with my stand-up. Many times when a fighter has great jiu jitsu his striking suffers, but I've been working on that and I'm at the point where I would be comfortable to stand and throw punches. I am working very hard and my quickness because I am a little guy. Making an opponent bleed and choke is a goal someday.
SI.com: What do you know about your upcoming opponent Shad Lierley?
Fabiano: He's a tough kid. I know he likes to stand and punch. He's also a good wrestler, so I know his ground work is good too. It will be a good fight, and I want to give the fans an element that is not just ground and pound. I know he almost beat Horodecki who is a rising star, so I have to work hard and fight smart to win.
SI.com: What has it meant to train with Renzo Gracie?
Fabiano: It's an honor to be here and learn from Renzo. I have great training partners back home, but they're good at different types of things. I get things from Renzo that I can't there. For example, he's a great strategist and his combinations and submissions are unbelievable. The guy is an encyclopedia. Plus, being at the Academy in New York and seeing different styles in this gym. Even a guy like Jamal Patterson, who has really improved his stand-up game with boxing, will really help me.
SI.com: Have you been recognized more in Brazil since becoming an MMA Champion?
Fabiano: I've definitely been recognized more. The IFL is taped in Brazil, and it's on now so that helps. People do recognize me and it's great. I love when people notice what I've done in my job because it's not easy. When they acknowledge that I've done something great, it's very special. I feel like my career is like a seed that I've planted and now I'm watching it grow, it's very exciting. The IFL has given me an opportunity I don't think I would have gotten other places, and many of the young stars feel the same way.
SI.com: What did winning the IFL Championship mean to you?
Fabiano: For me, it was great. Like I said, people started recognizing me and my qualities, which is so rewarding. I've spent many years training, so it's fantastic to get a positive response to that. I'm still training hard though. I haven't let this change anything. The worst thing fighters can do is let success get to their heads and start changing their habits. Renzo and my other instructors keep me grounded.
SI.com: Do you think jiu jitsu is the most dominant discipline within MMA?
Fabiano: Jiu jitsu is very important in becoming successful in MMA, but it's not enough to just be good at one thing -- you need a compliment. You have to be good at other things as well, like wrestling, boxing or Thai boxing. I think jiu jitsu might be 50 percent and you have to fill in the rest with a combination of other disciplines. That is how this sport will grow -- with great boxers, wrestlers, all coming together.
SI.com: Are there any fighters you would like to face?
Fabiano: I will take on anyone. The IFL has been great and the level of competition has been very intense, and if they want me to go out and defend my belt against anyone in the UFC or anywhere else, I would welcome that challenge. I think the group of young fighters in the IFL can rival anyone. And some day there will be a world championship for MMA, and the IFL will be well represented.