SPORTS

Carvalho has the name, speaks the language but says he will stand out in Brazil

01/09/2012 12:34 EST | Updated 03/10/2012 05:12 EST
There are some 12 Brazilians on the UFC Rio card Saturday but Antonio (Pato) Carvalho isn't one of them despite the name.

Born in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., to Portuguese parents, the 32-year-old featherweight from Ajax, Ont., says it won't take long for the UFC 142 fans to figure out he is not a local.

"I do speak Portuguese fluently but clearly I have a different dialect than they do — they'll notice that very clearly," Carvalho said. "Of course, I don't have a tan so I'm going to be the pale white fighter in the cage.

"So I might confuse them for a few seconds and then they'll realize I'm actually Canadian. ... I have a Portuguese background but I'm 100 per cent Canadian."

It's actually the UFC's second attempt to showcase the Canadian in Brazil. Carvalho was slated to make his UFC debut in August against Brazilian Yuri Alcantara at UFC 134.

But Carvalho (13-4) was injured and had to pull out. Alcantara went on to win a decision over 23-year-old Brazilian Felipe Arantes.

This time, Carvalho faces Arantes (13-4 with two no contests) in one of the first fights on Saturday's undercard at the HSBC Arena.

For Carvalho, this first trip to Brazil is another remarkable step on a mixed martial arts road that has taken him around the globe. The five-foot-eight fighter moved to Japan in 2006-07 to fight in the Shooto organization where he posted wins over Takeshi Inoue, Rumina Sato and Hatsu Hioki.

He has friends in Brazil and got his black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu from master instructor Sylvio Behring.

"This is where Vale Tudo came from, this is where the NHB (no-holds barred fighting) originally came from, as far as at least modern times," he said. "For me, I don't think my career would be complete without at least fighting and competing in Brazil."

Carvalho pulled out of the summer Brazil card when he decided he could not train through a shopping list of injuries. He had partially torn anterior and lateral collateral ligaments and a second-degree rupture of his hamstring, all in the same leg.

"That's the hardest part in this sport — staying healthy," the fighter said. "And I think part of the issue is that we're all stubborn in that we always want to fight through it. A lot of times our body compensates so much that we mask so many things.

"Sometimes I don't even know I have these issues. Later I find out I've been fighting with a torn something, some sort of ligament in my knee or my shoulder or something. And I don't realize it because we're so conditioned to take the pain and go through it."

Carvalho said he felt the damage this time, but just chalked it up to the rigours of training hard.

"It's normal. None of us ever get to the fight 100 per cent. ... Again because we're so used to that, it's sometimes hard to realize how injured we are."

A visit to a specialist changed that. And Carvalho, who teaches martial arts at the Bruckmann Academy of Martial Arts in Oshawa, Ont., said he knew he had to let his body heal.

"I think the UFC is fairly understanding as far as injuries are concerned. At least for me they have been . . . I know for sure that (UFC president) Dana White doesn't give some bounty points to fighters coming out fighting injured and then having a poor performance. That's not how the business works.

"Sure I could risk it but at the same time I could also risk my job if I don't perform well."

Carvalho did not have to undergo surgery, relying instead on some intense rehab on his leg.

"For once in my life I actually listened to people and stayed off of it. Right now I feel probably about as healthy as I've been in a long time."

His opponent Arantes is a flashy striker from the famed Chute Box academy.

"Young guy, so a lot of energy. Very explosive, not afraid to trade blows. A fairly well-rounded guy as well, considering he's got a great camp," Carvalho said by way of scouting report.

"He's backed by a lot of great people, a great team."

The Canadian believes Arantes showed the powerful Alcantara, a former lightweight, too much respect last time.

"I think that maybe got to him a little bit," Carvalho said of Arantes. "But I don't know he's going to respect me that much. At this point he knows that another loss is probably not a good thing for him so I think he's going to come at me and he's going to try to take me out.

"I don't see him respecting me the way he respected Yuri."

Carvalho last fought in June when he won a unanimous decision over UFC veteran Doug Evans in The Score Fighting Series in Mississauga, Ont.

Carvalho joins Canadian Sam (Hands of Stone) Stout on the Brazilian card. Stout, a lightweight from London, Ont., faces Brazil's Thiago Tavares.

In the main event, featherweight champion Jose Aldo of Brazil meets Chad Mendes.

Carvalho, who made his pro debut in 2002, has the unlikely nickname of Pato — Portuguese for Duck.

It came from a judo instructor who was unimpressed that his student was cross-training with some Brazilian jiu-jitsu teammates.

"He kind of looked at me and said 'You know you're swimming with the ducks instead of swimming with the eagles,'" Carvalho recalled.

"I just looked at him and said 'Wow, these people are great people and you're talking about them like that, so if you feel like that I'd much rather be the duck,'' he added.

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