De Oliveira plans to light up foe
By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Dayton Morinaga
By the end of the Rumble On The Rock welterweight tournament, Renato Verissimo de Oliveira hopes to be smoking a victory "charuto."
In the sport of mixed martial arts, de Oliveira is known mostly by his nickname, "Charuto," which means cigar in Portuguese.
The nickname has become well known because he also happens to be one of the best welterweight fighters in the world.
"This tournament is very important," said de Oliveira, 32. "Whoever wins will be in a good position to get a big contract. You have eight really good guys in it, so the winner will get a lot of respect."
The quarterfinals of the tournament will be held Friday at the Blaisdell Center Arena during the Rumble On The Rock card. The winners will advance to the semifinals on the next ROTR card April 7.
De Oliveira was born and raised in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, but has been living and training in Hawai'i since 1998. He calls both places his home, and knowledgeable fans in Hawai'i have taken a liking to his style.
"I love that the people of Hawai'i cheer for me like I'm one of them," de Oliveira said. "I think maybe I look like I'm from here so that helps. And like all the fighters from Brazil, I don't give up. I will always fight my hardest."
De Oliveira will face New Mexico's Carlos Condit on Friday. In other quarterfinals: Frank Trigg of California will face Hawai'i's Ronald Jhun; Dave Menne of Minnesota will take on California's Jake Shields; Brazil's Anderson Silva will face Japan's Yushin Okami.
The weight limit is 175 pounds. At that weight class, Silva (No. 4), Trigg (No. 5), and de Oliveira (No. 6) are all ranked among the top 10 in the world.
De Oliveira's professional mixed martial arts record is 5-2, and all his fights have been against highly ranked opponents. His only losses are to world champion Matt Hughes and Trigg.
De Oliveira could get a rematch with Trigg in April if they both win Friday.
"I'm not even thinking about that," de Oliveira said. "This sport is so unpredictable. One slip, one punch, the fight is over. My only worry right now is Carlos Condit."
De Oliveira was an immediate draw at mixed martial arts events because of his successful career in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
"That's why they brought me to America," he said. "Jiu-jitsu will always be first for me. I don't like the brawling. I'm a martial arts teacher, so my background will always be about technique."
Hilo's Jay Dee Penn met de Oliveira at a jiu-jitsu class in Las Vegas in 1997. They later became roommates, and Penn persuaded de Oliveira to teach jiu-jitsu in Hilo.
Penn, who is the older brother of mixed martial arts superstar BJ Penn, is now the president of the Rumble On The Rock organization.
"We started with 10 guys in the school, and within the first two months, it jumped to 50 or 60," Jay Dee Penn said. "The word spread that we had one of the world's best jiu-jitsu black belts in Charuto, and everybody wanted to learn from him."
In those early years, one of de Oliveira's primary duties was training with BJ Penn, who is now considered the best "pound-for-pound" mixed martial arts fighter in the world.
"Charuto was working with BJ every day, so we said 'hey, you should be in the ring, too,' " Jay Dee Penn said. "And it escalated from there. It's not surprising to see why he's been so successful. We knew he had the background."
It is surprising when considering that de Oliveira's original background was in water polo. He was good enough to earn a tryout with Brazil's Olympic team.
It was also the sport that gave him his nickname.
"There were two guys named Renato on the team, so the coach told me I was tall and skinny and dark — like a cigar," de Oliveira said.
During his second year of college in Brazil, de Oliveira said "everybody went crazy for jiu-jitsu" so he tried it with his friends.
Eventually, he dropped out of water polo and his college's engineering program to become a jiu-jitsu instructor and competitor.
"I hope it was the right choice," he said. "I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be as good in engineering as I am in fighting."
Hilo's Wesley "Cabbage" Correira will face Eric "Butterbean" Esch in a heavyweight "Super Fight" on Friday.
Other bouts include Scott Junk against Vilatonu Fonokalafi, Ross Ebanez against Josh Donahue, and Mike Malone against Kengo Ura.
Hilo's BJ Penn is scheduled to fight Canada's Georges St. Pierre on an Ultimate Fighting Championship card at Las Vegas on March 4. The winner is expected to earn a world title match against champion Matt Hughes.
Reach Dayton Morinaga at email@example.com.