|Washington will face Thales Leites on Bitetti card in Brazil|
|Written by Ben Pherson|
|Tuesday, 23 February 2010 08:13|
Minnesota MMA News has just learned that Minnesotan Rico Washington has accepted a major fight in Brazil on Thursday.
Washington, who trains with Sergio Cunha at Minnesota Fight Factory, will face UFC veteran Thales Leites as part of the Bitetti Combat 6 event on Thursday night.
Washington said he received the call Monday night and accepted the fight with less than three days notice. He'll get on a plane today and head to Brazil.
Washington's opportunity arose partially due to the bizarre saga surrounding Paulo Filho. Filho recently backed out of his fight with Yuki Sasaki due to "personal issues." When that happened, Bitetti immediately went looking for a replacement and signed Leites to face Sasaki instead.
Well, now just two days later, Filho says he's back in. "Saski said that he would only fight if it was Paulo," event promoter Amaury Bitetti told Brazilian MMA outlet Tatame. "Knowing this, Paulo said that he would fight anyway."
That was good news for Washington. Bitetti wanted to keep Leites on the card, and so he went looking for an opponent. And Washington stepped up.
"I'm definitely excited about the opportunity," Washington said today.
Leites is a middlweight Nova Uniao standout. He had a very successful run in the UFC and eventually challenged Anderson Silva for the middleweight title. After winning five straight UFC fights, Leites was given a shot at Silva and took him five rounds before losing a unanimous decision. Leites then lost his next fight to Alessio Sakara and was cut by the UFC. He was 5-3 in his UFC career, with his only losses coming against Silva, Sakara and Martin Kampmann.
"I know that Thales' BJJ is world class, so Plan A is to go for the KO," Washington said. "If it goes to the ground, I'll utilize smart ground and pound or try to get it back to the feet. For the most part, it will be a sprawl and brawl strategy. I've wrestled for 17 years, so I'll be utilizing that experience to create opportunities as well."
This will be Washington's second appearance in Brazil. He last fought in December on Bitetti Combat 5 against Gustavo Machado. Washington dropped a unanimous decision in that fight.
"That fight was a big step up for me against Gustavo Machado, who has fought against Thales, Nate Quarry, Damian Maia, Ricardo Arond and many more.
Washington said taking the fight on short notice shouldn't be a problem.
"Anyone who competes in this sport knows you have to be ready at all times for situations like this," Washington said. "This is the reason I stay training and ready to go for whenever we get a call. This is a great opportunity not only for myself, but for the Minnesota Fight Factory as a whole. I was actually getting ready for another bout in Rion next month with a different promotion, but we knew that the promoters from Bitetti could possibly call at the last minute. They were impressed with my last performance, even though I lost a decision to Gustavo."
Fellow Minnesota native Jeff Monson also is expected to compete on Thursday's card.
The event will be held at Nilson Nelson Gymnasium in the nation's capital of Brasilia.