Pedro Carvalho enters his featherweight title bout with Patrício ‘Pitbull’ this weekend in Connecticut, as a massive underdog. Although, that’s nothing new for the Portuguese native. He’s largely gone under the radar at 145-pounds – but victories over the likes of Daniel Crawford, Luca Vitali, Derek Campos, and Sam Sicilia, should give ‘Pitbull’ some significant worry.
The Straight Blast Gym native has undeniably been overlooked already despite joining the ranks of Bellator’s featherweight division just two years ago – but his record speaks for itself. The 24-year-old only began training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu when he linked up with John Kavanagh in the capital – difficult to imagine given his recent grappling exploits.
Ahead of his Featherweight Grand-Prix title meeting with ‘Pitbull’, Ross Markey (MMA Power Hour Staff Writer) sat down with Carvalho – where he gave his thoughts on the Brazilian champion, spoke of his close-knit family unit, and reminisced on our first interview back in 2017. He also explained how he wanted to be known as the best fighter in the world, rather than just, Pedro Carvalho.
When Markey first sat down with Carvalho three years ago, he was preparing for a clash with Jeanderson Castro under the Cage Legacy banner – the journey since has been an enjoyable one for Pedro, not without it’s difficulties though.
“It’s been fun, but at the same time it’s been a very hard journey,” Carvalho said. “For me to be where I am right now, I needed to do a lot of sacrifices – living away from my son. He was born after my first Bellator fight, you know. It was eighteen months living without him, pursuing the dream. It’s been fun, it’s been good, it’s been well rewarded, but at the same time, it’s been hard. Everything is paying off, and here we are, fighting for a world belt. Overall, it’s been a great journey so far.“
Carvalho explained ahead of his fight with Castro back in 2017, how “it will only be a matter of time before everyone knows who Pedro Carvalho is.” Three years later – Markey asked Pedro if he would consider that goal, “mission accomplished”.
“I don’t know, I don’t know about that,” Carvalho explained. “I mean, maybe people inside of the circuit know who I am, but I don’t want to be known as Pedro Carvalho. I want to be known as the best, that’s what I want and I haven’t accomplished that yet. I have a good opportunity right now after beating Patrício (Freire) but right now, I can be known as a tough kid that knows how to fight. But, that’s not what I want, that’s not why I struggle all these years, and work my ass all these years. I work my ass so I will be known as the best. The best fighter in the world, that’s what I’m looking for. I’m still far away from that title but I’m getting there, I’m getting there.“
In terms of a stylistic matchup with two-weight world champion Freire, Carvalho remains confident that on paper, he matches up well with the Brazilian. The Portuguese native also questioned Freire’s ability to fight effectively beyond three rounds – before praising the 32-year-old’s evolution as a striker.
“Patrício – I really enjoy seeing him fight,” Carvalho told. “He’s a really clever and intelligent fighter. You can clearly see his evolvement and improvement as a fighter over the years. Like six years ago, he was like a pitbull, just wild, just throwing haymakers and having wild fights. Now, it [his style] is completely opposite. He’s really smart – stays in the centre of the ring, waits for you, waits for the perfect opportunity to land a shot or grab you. It’s nice to see. Stylistically wise – I’m super happy with this fight because he’s a great a fighter. He’s one of the best featherweights of all time and he’s the best guy that Bellator ever had.“
“The thing is, he’s never faced a guy like me,” Carvalho continued. “Stylistically – like I said, he just matches me up perfectly. I can go all day, I have cardio all day – he’s not the same. You can see, even in slow-paced fights, by the third round, he starts to get slower. By the third round, I start to get faster. I start to get warm. Going to the third round, that’s when I’m starting to go to fourth gear. That’s going to be a huge difference-maker in this fight, in my opinion. Then, from what I see, he’s just a one-punch counter attacker.“
“I’m a complete striker, I throw my strikes to finish you,” Carvalho said.”I even throw my strikes – you try to hold me down, and then what happened in my previous fight? All my submissions is not because I landed a takedown and I looked for a submission. All my submission victories, basically are from guys who couldn’t handle the pressure on the feet, they try to take me down and end up getting submitted. I’ve seen Patrício for years fighting. I’ve seen Patrício since I’m fifteen or sixteen years old. I know what he’s capable of, and I know what I’m capable of – I’ll shout out loud that I’m not only going to win this fight, I’m going to dominate him, I’m going to finish him that’s plain and simple. I will finish Patrício ‘Pitbull’. I will knock Patrício ‘Pitbull’ out – that’s it.“
For Carvalho, the opportunities from Scott Coker and Bellator came thick and fast – something he relished and was only too eager to accept.
“From day one, the only thing I asked for was opportunities, you know?” Carvalho said. “I never look for easy fights or stylistically, a good opponent. I never cared about that, I’m a fighter. From the bottom of my heart, I’m a fighter. That’s who I am, I want to fight, I just want to fight. The only thing I ask for is opportunities. During the course, I got them and took the best out of them. That’s how I got myself into the tournament in the first place. My name was never an option to go to the tournament. I just knew I needed to do something big – a big opportunity, a big name so I could go out there and perform and get into the tournament.“
One of those opportunities came in the form of a clash with fellow contender, Sam Sicilia – where Carvalho detailed how the finish to that fight will look very similar when he stops ‘Pitbull’.
“That’s when the Derek Campos fight appeared, “Carvalho told.”Ryan Scope pulled out and I got my shot. At that moment, I knew I would win the tournament. Then on the first fight of the tournament, I faced Sam Silicia. Like I said, Sam Sicilia was a great matchup for me – stylistically in my opinion. He’s kind of the same style of Derek Campos – he’s short, he likes to throw overhands. These guys all have a problem with their conditioning and clearly, Sam Sicilia always has that problem. When he reaches the second round he’s tired. I just knew I had to be patient in the first round and make sure that’s he’s really tired. I knew by the second round that I had him, so I just picked my shots, and waited for him to give me the finish, and that’s what happened. On the takedown, when I reversed and got on top, you can see he doesn’t really want it. He’s just looking for a way to get over it. It’s pretty much the same picture you’re going to see on March 13th. against Patrício.“
The 24-year-old spoke highly of his adopted home, Straight Blast Gym, and explained how numerous world champions will emerge from the facility in years to come.
“I said it before, the true golden ages of SBG are still to come,” Carvalho said. “No one imagines the hard work – every single day, the mats are filled with a bunch of young animals working their asses off on a daily basis. Every single day, there’s a huge amount of people just working to reach the top level. That’s how you see so many names start to appear, and show up – especially on these Bellator events. We are the number one team, we are the best in the world. It’s not by any chance that everyone speaks about us. The other teams – even if they want to speak s**t, they still have SBG in their mouths. That’s because we are the best. I’m truly excited to see the future results that are still to come. We have so many guys, and so many promises of great world champions and products that are still to come. I think people will see in a short period of time, in the future, we are going to solidify the title that we all say, we are the best team and everyone’s going to see that.“
Markey mentioned earlier how Carvalho had only begun training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu when he arrived in Dublin from his native Portugal – an aspect of his game Pedro revealed was the main reason he sought out head coach, John Kavanagh, who he’s developed a well-oiled partnership with.
“My Jiu-Jitsu is only a reflection of why I chose to come to Ireland and train at SBG,” Carvalho said. “My main focus when I chose SBG, was because of John (Kavanagh). I know John from social media and MMA. I identify a lot with his approach and his way to approach the fight game and everything. You know, it’s really simple but he focuses a lot on the small details that no one sees and it makes a huge difference. I always liked to work like that.“
“That’s a small picture of the big picture, Carvalho said.”My Jiu-Jitsu game is all about that – and what he teaches me. At the same time, I’m always looking – and he’s always giving me the small details. That’s what wins fights – the little things that no one sees and your opponent’s not expecting – and then, the fight is over. Like I said, it’s a small reflection of the big picture. I’m very happy, especially when John gave me my purple belt, that was a special moment for me.“
Pedro explained how celebrity status means nothing to him. Family comes first for the Portuguese competitor above all else.
“My mom on my left side, my girlfriend on my right side, and my son on my lap, that’s it, that’s all I ask, “Carvalho explained. “My family, they are the most important thing to me. The rest – I don’t care about celebrities, I don’t care about fighters. I do this because I love MMA, but I also do this to give the best life possible for my family. That’s it, they are my only focus outside of the sport – the rest, I don’t give a bollox. I just care about my family – my mom, my girlfriend, and son on my lap. That’s it, happy days.“