The Evolution of a Champion: Wagnney Fabiano

By Aaron Richman ( of MMA Fight Council

The MMA Fight Council (MMAFC) was able to chat with Wagnney Fabiano recently. We got a much deeper insight into what makes this past (IFL) and future (WEC?) champion tick, and you will be surprised to learn just how he might become a champion again! What follows is a summary of our conversation combined with some public information about him, that we hope will help you come to know the man, the athlete, and the Champion better.

The Man

Wagnney Fabiano-Santos was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, thirty-four years ago. He is married and has a two year old daughter. He and his family live in Toronto, Canada. Wagnney moved from Brazil to Canada in 1998 in the hopes of pursuing greater employment opportunities than he had at home. He has been a teacher for over a decade. Wagnney is a deeply spiritual man, with a strong Christian faith. He is a very laid back, polite, and well spoken man.

The Athlete

Wagnney began training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) when he was three years old. He competed in his first tournament when he was just four years old. He has earned the rank of third degree Black Belt in BJJ, under Wendell Alexander and Andre Pederneiras. Wagnney also trained in BJJ under Renzo Gracie and Carlos Gracie Jr.

Wagnney has had a very successful career as a top level BJJ player. He won five state titles; was three times a Brazilian National Champion; was a Brazilian National Teams Champion; won Pan-Am in ’95; was a member of the ‘97 BJJ World Champions team Nova Uniao; placed third in the world in Mundials ’98; Arnold Gracie Worlds Pro Division 2nd Place in ’04; ADCC Quarter Finalist in ’05, and too much more to list here.

In ’98 while looking to leave Brazil to find better opportunities, a friend invited Wagnney to visit Montreal. He visited, and liked it enough to stay. As far as he could tell, he was the first and only BJJ Black Belt in all of Montreal at the time, and he began teaching.

In spite of all Wagnney’s many BJJ accomplishments, and his growing number of students, he thought there might be bigger ways that he could challenge himself. He, like so many of us, had become a fan of MMA. In 2000 Wagnney decided to test himself, and experience the excitement of competing in a professional MMA match. In fact, over the next six years, he fought four times, winning each time. Then, in October of ’06, Wagnney got to fight Jeff Curran. He fought a tough fight, that Curran won by Split Decision. Many people then and now were positive that Wagnney won that fight. Wagnney is one of those people, but more on that shortly.

The Champion

Since that highly controversial Split Decision loss, Wagnney has gone on to fight eight more times, winning all eight fights. Seven of them were finishes, and only his last fight against Fredson Paixao had to go to the judges, and it was a Unanimous Decision.

Four months after that first, and only, loss, Wagnney was presented with a bigger stage to showcase his skills on. He had a student who was fighting in the IFL that got injured. As Wagnney was acquainted with Carlos Newton, and Carlos was working with the IFL, the path was cleared for him to take his student’s place. What happens next is the stuff legends are made of!

Wagnney went on to submit each of his next four IFL opponents. This put him in position for his next fight to be the IFL’s first ever Featherweight Championship fight. I was fortunate to be present at that fight, and watch Wagnney masterfully submit LC Davis in the first round to become the IFL Featherweight Champion. Next, he had an opportunity to showcase his standup in his first title defense, and KOd a game Shad Lierly in thirty-seven seconds of the first round. Unfortunately, shortly afterwards, the IFL ceased operations.

Knowing a good thing when they saw it, Zuffa owned, WEC signed Wagnney to a five fight contract. They wasted no time in testing Wagnney, and for his debut matched him against Akitoshi Tamura, also making his WEC debut. Tamura came from Shooto in Japan, where he was the Lightweight Champion. With only twelve seconds left in the fight, Wagnney was able to submit the very tough Tamura, to win his debut. After this hard fought loss, Tamura dropped down a weight class and now fights as a Bantamweight in the WEC. Wagnney’s next fight was against his very talented countryman, Fredson Paixao. While unable to finish Paixao, Wagnney won a Unanimous Decision.

You’re now caught up to the moment, in the former IFL Champion’s career. So, what comes next you might ask? Has Wagnney earned a Featherweight title shot, against the always dangerous and ready Mike Brown? Probably he has, many say, but he has to wait, for now. You see, there’s another exciting Brazilian Featherweight blowing through the division, named Jose Aldo. It just so happens that Wagnney and Jose have trained together and are very good friends. Even more, as Wagnney puts it they’re like brothers. He made a point of telling me that they’re much closer friends than, say, Anderson Silva and Lyoto Machida! See where this is going?

Wagnney is genuinely happy for his friend Jose to get the next Featherweight title shot this November. In the mean time, the WEC has him fighting on October 10, against a twenty year old newcomer named Eric Koch (Coke). Koch is 8-0 in his young career, and will be fighting in the biggest fight of his life when he steps into the cage with Wagnney. I asked Wagnney if he felt bothered, slighted, or offended by this matchmaking decision, and he simply told me, “No”. He explained that he’s “just an employee” and all he needs to do is perform. He knows that Koch, is young, talented, and hungry. His plan is to do whatever it takes to fight for a win.

Here’s where things could get very interesting. IF Jose Aldo is able to dethrone Mike Brown, and IF Wagnney gets past Koch, that would set them up to face each other! Right? Or, would it? No, is the answer to that question. They already know their next move if this were to happen. Wagnney goes down in weight to bantamweight. If through some turn of events, Wagnney became the Featherweight Champion, then Aldo would drop down in weight. They will NOT fight one another, ever, for any reason! This could prove to be very interesting in the next couple of months! Stay tuned!

Wagnney had some interesting answers to a couple of other questions I had for him. I naturally asked him if he desires to avenge his only blemish (12-1) in that hotly debated Split Decision loss to Jeff Curran. He explained that while he has a lot of respect for Curran, since Curran doesn’t stand between him and a title, he has no interest at all in fighting him again.

Lastly, I asked him about his feelings regarding the WEC being folded into the UFC. He responded that it would be “a dream come true”. He explained that every fighter wants to fight in the UFC, and receive better exposure, and better money. He said, “I’m in the spot where I want to be.” He’s very grateful, and just wants to do his job the best that he can.

Wagnney Fabiano is a good man, an excellent athlete, and a humble Champion!

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