True to his word, Paulo Filho has agreed to vacate the WEC middleweight belt after losing unanimously on points to Chael Sonnen on Wednesday. Flying back to Los Angeles from Florida the day after what was supposed to be a five-round championship fight, Filho's manager, Ed Soares, said he planned on shipping the belt to Sonnen as soon as he could.
Filho and his camp discussed the fate of the title following the worst performance of the Brazilian's heretofore unbeaten campaign, said Soares.
In his 17th contest as a pro, Filho, who failed to make weight by four pounds after first stepping on the scales at 192 pounds, fought like an intimidated rookie. Everything that made him a terror in Brazil and Japan appeared to be lost. He showed nothing of the power and aggression that propelled him to the No. 2 middleweight ranking behind his teammate and friend, Anderson Silva. Filho simply did not fight like a man befitting his ranking.
Having returned to his locker room after refusing to engage for 15 minutes, Filho (16-1), told several times he'd lost, reacted as if he was unaware the fight had even reached its conclusion, Soares said.
Soon, Filho drew attention from doctors when the dilation of his pupils didn't match. Later that evening, however, the 30-year-old grappler was released from a local hospital, his eyes functioning as close to normal as they'd done all night.
Last December, Filho armbarred Sonnen to controversy at 4:55 in the second round. Sonnen, a former wrestler at the University of Oregon, protested loudly, and promoters granted his wish for a rematch. The pair was set to fight again in March, but a widely reported tussle with depression forced Filho out of the bout. In September, Hurricane Ike prompted WEC officials to postpone the Hollywood, Fla., card to November.
There is some speculation that Wednesday's fight -- if one can call it that -- might be Filho's last for Zuffa. At 185 pounds, Filho appeared poised to depart WEC's soon-to-be cleaved ranks for the greener -- and far more challenging -- pastures of the UFC. Yet his performance, coupled with the inability to approach his contract weight, could severely diminish interest in him. Still, there aren't many big-name free agents in need of redemption, so Filho could court some attractive fights if he was forced to move on.