(Carvalho preparing for his long-awaited return. Picture courtesy of Sean McManus)
Antonio “Pato” Carvalho was once regarded as one of the finest featherweights in the world. The thirty year old Canadian was active in Shooto, when the promotion was arguably the biggest showcase for lighter fighters, and defeated the likes of Hatsu Hioki, Takeshi Inoue and Rumina Sato. He suffered back to back losses for the first time in his career to Hiroyuki Takaya and Yuji Hoshino and injuries have since kept “Pato” from competing. Only now, two years on, is the time right for him to make his return.
Carvalho signed for the burgeoning Montreal-based promotion W-1, along with a number of other stars like Denis Kang and Vernon White. The event on March 20th, “Bad Blood”, will see Carvalho face off against Eddie Fyvie in a testing battle upon his return.
Carvalho promises to be ready for action when the time comes and admitted that he hasn’t been resting on his laurels in the hiatus, even if competition hasn’t been a factor.
“I am doing what I always do,” Antonio noted. “Living and breathing martial arts in some way, shape or form; whether it has been coaching or cornering other fighters, I have still been closely involved with the sport of MMA during my layoff. The main reason for the layoff was because I have had so many nagging injuries that would not go away. There was some point in time where I thought that perhaps I would never fight again. However, after lots of tests and a good amount of rehab, I am happy to say that this is the healthiest I have been in a very long time.”
When asked if he had missed the competition, the answer was emphatic:
“Absolutely! I love to compete in this sport. There is no other time that you feel more alive physically, emotionally and spiritually then when you go out there and compete against another human being that is intent on stopping you from achieving your goal. I am very happy and excited to be getting in the cage again.”
Not every fighter can regain what they once had when a lengthy tenure outside of competition has been forced upon them. Carvalho’s skills and attitude took him to great heights at his peak back in 2006 and 2007 but a true martial artist is always pushing himself to improve, even in times of great struggle, and thus you can expect “Pato” won’t be one of those affected too heavily by the interlude.
“I certainly hope to bring something new to the table,” he revealed. “I want to try to be more aggressive in my fights and impose myself more. So I am trying to incorporate that style more when I train and hopefully will cross over in the cage.
“I feel good and training has been going according to plan. I am doing my best to not only train hard, but also smart. I take good care of my body and I am now very specific about how I train to get the best results come March 20th. Myself and my team are excited to see the results.”
Hearing the renewed vigour is a good sign for the fans. All of the physical practice can only really come to fruition in the testing ground of the cage but will his mentality be on track? As previously mentioned, Carvalho’s back-to-back losses in his last two outings were the first time he had tasted defeat in successive bouts. Sometimes this can lead to rapid improvement after noting where and how the defeats occurred; prompting the old adage ‘you learn more from a loss’. The flipside of the scenario is that it can also see a talented fighter go on a downslide and never fully regain the momentum they once carried. Antonio is hoping that his case is the former and that the losses have made him regain a killer instinct and helped him iron out some flaws.
“I would be lying if I said that those losses are entirely out of my mind, but I do use those fights as a blueprint of what not to do in certain instances during the fight. It is important to go back to those fights and have an honest look of what I did wrong in order to improve, no matter how hard it is to have to watch myself get beat. I have to be truly honest with myself and man up and admit that I was not good enough at that time to pull off the win. I made some critical errors during my last two fights that cost me the victory. I had my chances and failed to put my opponents away so I am working on closing off those holes in my game so that they don’t happen again.”
So, Fyvie is the next adversary to present an interesting threat to Antonio. Back at his home of Bruckmann Martial Arts, “Pato” is convinced that he is constantly evolving and acquiring new facets to his game with quality coaches and training partners that include Justin Bruckmann and Bill Boland in a coaching capacity and Adrian Wooley and new Bellator signee Sean Pierson as training partners. He is also paying note to other specifics that he has never previously addressed such as conditioning and nutrition, with Gord McPhail and Kim Tilden respectively.
With all of these factors added in to his regime, the outlook doesn’t look promising for Fyvie when he has to stand across from Carvalho in battle, but Antonio respects his adversary and took note of his strengths:
“He has lots of wins by submission so he is obviously talented on the mat. I would definitely say that his strength lies in his jiu-jitsu skills. On paper, it appears I have the advantage in terms of the striking aspect over him. However, this is MMA and anything can happen. So, as always, I will prepare to be sharp in all aspects of the game.”
Although determined an eager to succeed, Carvalho isn’t basing his return on a particular goal or aspiration. Just happy to be healthy enough to compete, he closed with,
“I just want to compete in MMA and enjoy the ride. My goal is to put out the best “Antonio Carvalho” every time I fight. At the same time, create some memorable fights for my family and friends to enjoy. That’s it really.”
Expect a memorable return as “Pato” attempts to dust off the cobwebs and show the world why he was once so highly-regarded.
His W-1 debut comes on March 20th against Eddie Fyvie, and for more information you can go to w1mma.com.