If you were to visit the Blackzilians’ training facility during the week, you probably wouldn’t see a whole lot of action. But on Friday nights you can expect to see a knockout.
Just ask Danillo Villefort, who was one of the first members of the famed MMA team, whose ranks include UFC vets Rashad Evans, Vitor Belfort, Alistair Overeem and several other top fighters. Hard sparring is a way of life on the weekends.
Three months ago, Villefort took on K-1 star and current Blackzilian Tyrone Spong for what he calls “meat night,” where training partners bite down on their mouthpieces and start winging full-speed punches.
“Before we moved to the new gym (in Boca Raton, Fla.), I was sparring Tyrone with MMA gloves,” Villefort told MMAjunkie.com Radio. “Tyrone’s level is so high that when I go 100 percent, for him, it might be 20 or 30 percent for him. He was going really hard on me, and I was like, ‘F–k, man, I’ve got to fight back,’ and then I was looking at the floor (thinking), ‘What the f–k.’ Then I realized that I was out.”
“I stood up and he said, ‘No, take a breather.’ (I said), ‘No, let’s go now, man. F–k it, I’m going to try and knock you out.’ Then he dropped me again, and I ended up in the hospital.”
This past Friday, Villefort (14-4) eased up on the sparring. After all, getting knocked out on a weekly basis isn’t exactly conducive to skill-building, or keeping brain cells, for that matter. But the Brazilian also needs all his wits for an upcoming bout with Dave Branch (12-3) at World Series of Fighting 5, which takes place Saturday at Revel Atlantic City in Atlantic City, N.J. The event’s main-card airs live on NBC Sports Network following prelims on NBCSports.com.
With so much intense training to fall back on, Villefort is sure he’ll be the one delivering knockdowns when the two meet in Atlantic City.
“I’m going to knock this guy out,” he said. “Just watch.”
Villefort and Branch meet in the opening round of a four-man middleweight tournament that will crown the first WSOF 185-pound champ. Both fighters are UFC vets looking to rebuild momentum with the upstart promotion. Branch is 4-1 since leaving the industry-leader, while Villefort is 5-1.
“He’s a jiu-jitsu guy,” Villefort said of his opponent. “He comes from a great academy – Renzo Gracie in New York. I respect that a lot, but I believe in my pedigree. I’m not afraid to go to the ground. If we go to the ground, I’m going to try to finish. If I don’t finish the fight, it’s not because I don’t want to. I always try. I respect his black belt, but I’m going forward. But I’m not going to try to defend myself. I’m going to try to finish.”
In the case of Spong, that approach didn’t work out too well. But after some time to recover, Villefort is ready for another “meat night.”
“I go through hell [at the Blackzilians gym] every day,” he said. “When you look around, there’s no easy training. When you look to one side, you see Thiago Alves. When you look to the other side, you see Rashad Evans. That’s what I like; I like to train very hard. I’m very comfortable with how I train.”
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