It is an often used, and abused, cliche in mixed martial arts when a fighter says that fighting is “in their blood” but for WSOF 5’s Danillo Villefort, that statement rings completely true. The son of legendary Vale Tudo fighter Francisco “Master Indio” Silva and older brother of UFC fighter Yuri Villefort, “Indio” has carved out his own spot in MMA with his all-round attack that has been further honed with the Blackzilians camp.
The UFC and Strikeforce veteran finally feels healthy after a string of setbacks and will be looking to make a statement when he faces David Branch this Saturday in New Jersey. MMAFrenzy caught up with Villefort before his WSOF 5 middleweight tournament bout with Branch to discuss his upcoming bout, the WSOF middleweight tournament, judo in MMA, his family, and more.
You will be facing a fellow Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt in David Branch at WSOF 5, how do you approach a fight like this?
He’s a tough guy from a great camp – Renzo Gracie Academy – and I respect him a lot. The day he called me out though, it motivated me to really be excited for this fight.
Does it affect your training at all since this fight is scheduled to be a part of the WSOF middleweight tournament, or is it just another fight?
It is just another fight. I always train hard and train like every fight is the most important of my life, so that doesn’t change very much [with a tournament]. I am going to come forward and try to finish the fight. He is a tough guy, but I am going to do my best and try to finish him.
Your camp, the Blackzilians, has a pretty considerable collection of talent in different areas of MMA. How do you guys balance the different styles and stay as close as your camp is?
We have a tremendous amount of talent in both our coaches and fighters. Everyone helps out everyone in fights. I feel blessed to have such a great team behind me. It is nothing special that we do here, we are just a good family here.
How much does your black belt in Judo help in MMA? Does it help your BJJ?
It helps me a lot! It is not my style to shoot for a double or single leg, I think it uses too much energy in a fight. I was just talking about that so it is funny that you mention it. I don’t say [to myself] I’m going to shoot a double or single leg, it just happens. In the back of my mind I always feel my Judo background though, it is my specialty.
I have been doing it since I was a little kid. So that’s where I feel most comfortable. I feel judo uses way more technique than energy. So if I want a takedown that is what I do.
How has the addition of wrestling coach Kenny Monday helped the Blackzilian camp?
He helps a lot but so do all of the other coaches you know? He adds a lot to the team, but especially lately, he helps a lot of guys with their takedown defense and he is great. He has really helped Abel Trujillo, who fights tomorrow* and I cannot wait to see the results.
You have been competing in MMA for a long time but are only 30-years-old, how do you maintain your motivation and love for the sport that has been your profession for years now?
It is not an easy career for sure. I can honestly say that I just really wanted to be an MMA fighter. My father was a Vale Tudo fighter back in the day, and I remember when I told him I wanted to be an MMA fighter and he told me, ‘Son, you gotta really make sure you want to do this because it is not an easy career but if you want to do it I will support you 100%.’ Today I can understand [what he meant] you know?
When I first started training MMA I was TOO hyped up and almost too motivated but now I have been training MMA for about 8-9 years and I was competing in Judo long before that. So I took a lot of damage on my body.
Last year, I had surgery on my shoulder and I spent months in recovery. It let the rest of my body recover and I got the time to think. I just fight to compete, I am a very competitive guy. I love to compete [in anything], and to compete in MMA is even in better. I never lost the will to fight, but I recharged my energy during the layoff, you know?
My last fight I didn’t feel really back yet. I work full-time [outside of MMA], and this time my boss was able to give time off to train and rest before the fight. So now I finally feel close to 100%, and I know everybody says that, but honestly I have never felt in better shape than I have for this fight. Everything, striking, grappling, card, etc. everything seems to be very good.
I have to give a lot of credit to Jake Bonnaci, who does our strength and conditioning, he used to train the guys at Xtreme Couture and he has helped me a lot. He is a great coach and has me ready to jump in the cage on September 14 with no injuries and feeling 100% healthy.
It has to be nice to finally feel 100% after such a long grind, right?
Oh yeah, you know people see the fight but they don’t see what is behind the scenes. They miss the injuries, the personal problems, weight cutting, and all these other things. My weight now is perfect, I am 200-pounds now and 15-pounds is easy to cut. I just have so many professional guys helping now and I’m ready.
My last fight in Strikeforce I fought with two ligaments torn in my shoulder and it kept popping out. Before the fight, in training, my shoulder fell out 14 times! The first time it happened I was laying in bed and I had to put it back myself and it hurt so bad I was like ‘What the F— is that?!’ I felt I couldn’t cancel the fight because I had already cancelled another one after hurting myself training with Bigfoot [Silva] and I just had to tell myself ‘F— it I’m going to fight.’
I lost the fight, but I fought like a man. I’d rather fight like a man and lose than run away from it, you know? I have no problem losing a fight that I fought like a man and gave it everything. My friends [and I] take that idea in gym too. We can make better wrestlers, help bad grapplers, and guys with bad cardio but we cannot help it if a guy if he isn’t tough you know? That can’t be taught.
It’s why we don’t have any p—-s here, because every time they come in they don’t last long enough to stick around.
We have seen a bit of a landscape change in MMA where specialists are rare and fighters have to be good at everything. Do you guys often find yourselves helping each other out in every area with so many different backgrounds in your camp?
Oh yeah, we train really hard here. Friday’s we really go really heavy and it seems like someone always gets knocked out by accident.
How have you enjoyed fighting for WSOF and their president Ray Sefo after being with so many different organizations (including UFC and Strikeforce) over the years?
I am so proud to fight for them, they are a really great company. I don’t just want to say good things about the show Ray Sefo because Ali [Abdel-Aziz] the matchmaker and the great guys that run the show. They treat us with respect and that is the thing, you know? People gotta understand, who makes the show? The fighters. We’re the people who put on the show and that’s the [group] that needs to be treated good. They do that here.
If you’re a good fighter and you help out the company they gotta help you out too. There are a lot of organizations that don’t give a damn about you and treat you like a product on the shelf, and they don’t treat you like that here. Everyone has a bad day and they know that [at WSOF] and they still respect you. The fighters know that and we respond.
If you saw the last fight in California (WSOF 4), they were all great fights no boring fights.
That was a solid card, I was impressed with your teammate Tyrone Spong in that fight.
Let me tell you about Tyrone man, when he learns his distance in MMA he is going to be scary. He is a pro in kickboxing and MMA but he is going pro in boxing as well! You know there’s some [similarities] in boxing, kickboxing, and MMA and all three are completely different in other ways. When he kicked that guy [Angel DeAnda] I felt my body shake with those strikes, no joke.
Also, I want to say I have a lot of respect for [DeAnda] nothing but respect for him after taking that fight.
You mentioned your Dad earlier and I was just curious how that relationship has helped you as a fighter with his prior history as a Vale Tudo fighter?
It’s awesome. I feel blessed for that. Not just because he was a great fighter and a real tough guy but because he is a real great man too. I respect him a lot and he is my best friend. He knows my game and me, he knows exactly what I need to fix and where I am at with everything. I trust him and his experience. My father had over 200 fights, he has no teeth now because he lost them all fighting [laughs].
Back then they used to fight 10 10-minute rounds, with a minute between rounds! That’s why he watches us and the UFC and says, ‘I can’t believe they are tired after only fifteen minutes!’ [laughs]
Anything you want to say you your fans?
To my fans, I want to say you will see a great fight on [Saturday]. I am going to come after him with all my weapons and, while I may not finish him, I am going to throw everything I have at him from the first second to the last second. Special thanks to all my sponsors and my coaches like my striking coach Henry Hooft, my judo coach (and older brother). I also want to send a big shout-out to my little brother, Yuri, he fights in Belo Horizonte and I just want to see him go all the way to the top.
*- interview was done prior to UFC Fight Night 27
You can catch Villefort in action this weekend as he takes on David Branch on the NBC Sports Network main card, be sure to follow the fighter on twitter @IndioMMA.
The World Series of Fighting will return to action this Saturday for WSOF 5 at the Revel Casino Hotel in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Saturday’s card will see former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski take on Mike Kyle in the main event.