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Exclusive: Babalu Talks Boring Fighters, Why He Became a Fighter and Whether or Not He Thinks About Going Back to the UFC

("Does Jake Shields have a watch like this? That’s what I thought.")

Three years ago, Renato Sobral made a rash decision that would change his career and his life.

Following a submission victory over David Heath at UFC 74, Sobral refused to relinquish the fight-ending anaconda choke despite commands by referee Steve Mazzagatti to let go and he put "The Headhunter" to sleep.

He was subsequently released by the UFC and was fined half of his $50,000 purse by the Nevada State Athletic Commission for the infraction, but the biggest hit he took was to his reputation. 

Sobral was a fan favorite in the UFC, but the backlash he received for that split-second decision followed him and he says he is cognizant of the effect his mistake had on his fan following and he says he has worked to rebuild his reputation.

Sometimes fans forget that fighters, like us, are human and that they sometimes have a bad night, a lapse in judgment or personal issues. They tend to look at athletes as larger than life beings, akin to superheroes who don’t have to deal with the everyday issues that plague mortals like us.

Karo Parisyan shattered that facade recently and proved that no matter how pissed off Dana White may be at a fighter, the door is never closed to a possible return to the Octagon.

We recently sat down with the former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion ahead of his December 4 bout with Dan Henderson and we broached a number of subjects including whether he thinks about going back to the UFC, what his family thought of him becoming a fighter and the trend of round winners in MMA.

Check out what Babalu had to say after the jump.

On the trend of fighters being overly cautious and fighting not to lose:
"Everybody has a different strategy, but [boring round-winning] fighters like that don’t go far. Fans watching live or on TV want to see fighters who put on exciting fights for the public. It’s not just about wins, it’s about the crowd and the [pay-per-view] buyers who want to keep watching the fights. I love to do what I’m doing, but why would I put my best into a fight if it’s going to be a sketchy fight? If it’s a sketchy loss, you shouldn’t fight."

On why he became a fighter:
"Fighting came naturally to me. I’ve been competing my whole life, but I always was best at fighting. I tried soccer, but I was too bad at it. Any sport that was like fighting I was good at. Wrestling and kickboxing and jiu-jitsu – it didn’t matter. I like to compete. It’s me. It’s me. I can’t get away from that. I’ll probably compete until I die. I probably won’t fight that long, but I’ll probably compete in jiu-jitsu or chess or whatever. It’s funny because my wife is the same (laughs) .We fight for the remote control at home. We fight for the couch. My wife, she’s very competitive. My kids are too."

On what his family’s reaction was to him becoming a fighter:
"[My family] didn’t like it [when I told them I was going to fight]. They thought I was crazy. That’s what they thought.  Back then we didn’t have [rules and commissions to protect us]. It was pretty amateur back in the day. You could make money as a fighter, but it was amateur and different. Rules are rules. My grandma, her dream is for me to stop my career. I hope I stop my career before she dies because she’d be happy. She knows everything that I have like my family and she doesn’t want to see me getting hurt. It’s hard to see your grandson sometimes getting hurt. It’s natural for them [to be upset]." 

On how becoming a parent made him understand his family’s concerns:
"I totally understand. My daughter is in jiu-jitsu class right now. I don’t know what my daughter is going to choose to do – if she is going to fight some day or not, but whatever she chooses to do, I’ll always be worried about her. Anything in life is dangerous. There are a lot of lions outside. [That applies to] anything, not just fighting. If my daughter wants to be a professional fighter – I don’t know if she will because she likes more girly stuff – but is she does, I know the sport is safe. It’s a rough sport, but it’s safe. I’d be more worried if she was jumping bikes or racing them – that’s more dangerous. It’s a rough sport, but if you look at football, they have way more concussions in football games than in MMA fights. Sometimes people get knocked out and sometimes you get cut and need stitches, but even in soccer games guys get injured like that. It’s a contact sport, but it’s not that dangerous. It’s safe for us, especially when you compare it to the way it was back in the day. People die more riding bikes than in our sport."

On whether or not he thinks about going back to the UFC:
"I haven’t thought about it. The UFC made me popular, and they will always be a part of my career and my life. They’re always going to be a part of my history forever. Dana White took the sport to a different level. The Fertittas and Dana White made it what it is today. How can I say it…I don’t have any hard feelings for anybody. Who knows? We’ll see what happens. I’m in the house that I love right now."

On what he is doing to prepare for Henderson this weekend:
"I’ve been doing a lot of wrestling, but really I’m just doing what I’m always doing to make sure I’m well-rounded. That’s pretty much it. I’m not focusing on anything specific. I just need to be focused. When you’re in the spotlight, it’s tough to sneak away from everyone to do things for yourself. That was a problem for me before."

On his favorite fight thus far in his career:
"I don’t know. It’s too tough. There’s too many. I don’t even remember all of them. Sometimes people ask me about certain fights and I don’t remember that I fought the guy they’re asking me about."

Cagepotato Comments

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The Fresh One- December 1, 2010 at 6:15 am
Gotcha, I missed it.
831 Father- November 30, 2010 at 6:33 pm
"I have that shirt that Babalu is wearing. My life has been on a downward spiral ever since."

I guess the rib against ugly MMA shirts flew over a few people's heads.
The Fresh One- November 30, 2010 at 5:35 pm
I am neither hipster nor douche, but I do have a mustache. Mine's a souvenir from an October trip to Mexico. I'm claiming exemption from the whole "ironic" thing. I would also like to point out how much more respect I have for some hipster in their skinny jeans than some jackass in a glittery skull shirt. I mean, they're both just god awful, but really? Glitter and skulls or dragons? Don't you own a mirror?
Kimbos Bread- November 30, 2010 at 2:46 pm
I'm growing one right now. And my mustache is finae as it is already.
RwilsonR- November 30, 2010 at 2:28 pm
@ 831 - That's because Don Frye is authentic, and isn't doing it out of some hipster desire to appear to be masculine, unlike most of the used tampons that try to create some retro-cool trendy bullshit with all the subtelty of Dane Cook. I'd just as soon get a Justin Bieber haircut as I would follow these mustachioed manginas into their faux-masculine 'lifestyle.'
mustache revival- November 30, 2010 at 2:18 pm
Ok, that website is awesome, but those guys go against everything a 'stache stands for, and the mustache gods will have karmic revenge on their souls.
Chromium- November 30, 2010 at 2:15 pm
Wait, there's a mustache douchebag rule now? I don't even have one, I just find it odd. Maybe there should be two conditions on that: either you look like Don Frye/Dan Severn, or you grow it into a handlebar. A handlebar mustache shows goddamn dedication, not douchebaggery.
mustache revival- November 30, 2010 at 2:15 pm
Don Frye for sure, and don't forget about the pre-2007 Liddell 'stache (It almost kicked Babalu's stupid goatee right off his skull). And have you ever been frisked by a cop with a mustache? I highly recommend it!
Kimbos Bread- November 30, 2010 at 2:04 pm
Man I love Babalu and I will watch his fights wherever he goes regardless of the promotion
831 Father- November 30, 2010 at 1:46 pm
I will say and accept that Don Frye is the exception to the mustache douchebaggery rule.
Videodrome_NOW- November 30, 2010 at 12:46 pm
"Mustaches are a lifestyle and a badge of honor representing all thing(s) masculine."

The only people who rock Mustaches are cops and hipsters. Neither of which are masculine, but both are fucking dildos.
831 Father- November 30, 2010 at 12:06 pm
Whatever, mustache revival. Hey, nice pics of you and your hipster brethren at latfh dot com.
mustache revival- November 30, 2010 at 12:01 pm
Hipster? Mustaches are a lifestyle and a badge of honor representing all thing masculine. Take your Assliction shirt and go fuck yourself. Glitter and skulls yeah!
831 Father- November 30, 2010 at 11:37 am
Anyone who is talking about mustaches this past week is a hipster or a hipster-proponent. You know what's funny about ironic mustaches? Nothing?

Fucking hipsters, grow up, take a bath and get a job already.
mustache revival- November 30, 2010 at 11:05 am
If Babalu would shave that 90's goatee into a sweet mustache it would guarantee him a W on Saturday.
The Fresh One- November 30, 2010 at 11:01 am
Would have been nice to see Babalu v Tito in Affliction.
GetUpAndKill- November 30, 2010 at 11:00 am
I once dreamed of a world where Babalu was king.
RwilsonR- November 30, 2010 at 10:31 am
I never much liked Decision Dan during the Pride days, or after... but the KO of Bisping went a long way for me. Still, I'm with Lutador - I hope Babalu wins this one big. Babalu has always been an exciting fighter.

And I applaud Babalu's bigotry towards bikes... especially if that carries over towards those faggotty cyclists that clog up the streets in their stupid spandex every weekend. Get the fuck off the road, assholes!!!
I know he probably means motorcycles, but I'm going to pretend that he agrees with me about those fucknuts on bicycles.
Douchebaggery- November 30, 2010 at 10:24 am
.....We fight for the remote control at home. We fight for the couch. My wife, she’s very competitive. My kids are too.

sounds a bit chaotic, like a house full of assholes
831 Father- November 30, 2010 at 10:22 am
Also, I'm appalled by Babalu's bigotry against bikes.
Lutador Vomitando- November 30, 2010 at 10:20 am
Babalu is badass! He has always been one of my favorite fighters. I hope he wrecks Hendo.
831 Father- November 30, 2010 at 10:18 am
I have that shirt that Babalu is wearing. My life has been on a downward spiral ever since.