Rafaello "Tractor" Oliveira, a BJJ fighter who trains at Knoxville Martial Arts Academy (KMAA) and Next Level Training, both out of Knoxville, Tennessee, will be fighting once again for the UFC at UFC 148 tonight!
For local MMA fight fans, that means flying to Las Vegas, Nevada, heading to a local sports bar, like Hooters on Kingston Pike, or getting a group of friends together to watch Oliveira kick some ass.
There’s no secret his future with the UFC is on the line. In spite of record of 14 wins and only 5 losses, his last two fights ended in losses: Yves Edwards via TKO and Gleison Tibau via submission. And while this isn’t baseball, for the UFC – 3 strikes means you’re out.
So tonight, Knoxville MMA fans will be in full force, cheering on their favorite local UFC fighter, as he faces Yoislandy Izquierdo (6-1-0) in the ring.
Izquierdo is a Cuban fighter, fighting out of Hialeah, Florida, with the Young Tigers team. His only loss to date was via Submission (guillotine choke) to Reza Madadi back in April at UFC Fuel 2. With his Shotokan style of fighting, he’s proven he can stay in the ring and win via decision, TKO (using punches) or submission (guillotine), so there’s no doubt he’s a worthy opponent. With only one UFC fight under his belt, he’ll be fighting for the win to impress his bosses and make his mark in the UFC.
Oliveira too is fighting to impress – as he wants to prove he should stay in the UFC. And you name it – he’s won via: TKO (punches), submission (rear-naked and triangle chokes), or decision after 3 hard fought rounds.
I spoke to Oliveira’s coach, Eric Turner, out of KMAA, and asked him how his training has been going: “I'm very proud of him and the focus he's shown. Rafa’s been training hard, all the way up until last Friday night, then it was time to rest and recover on our way to Vegas.”
In preparing for tonight’s fight, Oliveira has been relentless in his preparation and time spent getting ready. Said Turner: “I have no doubt come Saturday night, you’re going to see a very exciting fight, with Rafa bringing all his skills into the ring. With all due respect, let’s just say he’s not going to make it easy for Yoislandy Izquierdo.”
I’m a bit of a home town kind of fan, so any time a local fighter steps into the ring, you know that’s the fighter I’m going to root for – but knowing how hard Oliveira’s been training and the dedication he’s shown, especially in light of his potentially faltering future with the UFC, makes me really want to see him win this fight tonight. Not to mention he's truly a great guy, an awesome BJJ coach, and a top notch MMA fighter.
You can watch this fight on Facebook by going here. The Facebook stream begins at approximately 7:30 p.m. ET/4:30 p.m. PT.
I hope all you other Knoxville/ Oliveira/Tennessee fans are with me?!