Sochi, Russia – It is half past 11pm in a hotel room in Sochi, Russia. Still affected by the massive jet lag due to his trip all the way from California, Super Lightweight title contender Leonardo Mafra hits play once again, “Rocky 4” is about to start again.
Mafra has started to think about the similarities between the movie and his own path to the BRAVE Combat Federation world title when his title bout against Eldar Eldarov was first announced. Like the American boxer portrayed by Sylvester Stallone in the 1985 movie, he would also travel all the way to Russia to face a local superstar, calm and reserved, in his home country.
Rocky Balboa’s underdog tale has been his inspiration, and at the same time the much-needed fun and distraction from the demanding pre-fight routine. Watching the movie over and over again brought back childhood memories to the now 31-year-old Mafra.
“Rocky is a very good movie, it’s part of pop culture. Every kid born in the 80’s and 90’s grew up watching it, trying to recreate it somehow. Well, I’ll have this chance for real. It’s every fighter’s dream to do something like this”, he said.
But unlike the movie he referenced, Mafra does not believe in odds favoring one fighter or another. For him, once the bell rings, it’s always 50/50.
“I honestly don’t think I’m the underdog, or that once the cage door closes there’s such a thing as an underdog. If you both made weight, if everything is right for the fight, it’s even”, he stated.
Beating Eldarov and being crowned the world champion for the first time in his professional career would be a movie-ending-like scene for Mafra’s story in Mixed Martial Arts. And because there will be fans in the attendance of BRAVE CF 46, the first time for the promotion since early 2020, Mafra can, maybe, give his own interpretation of the final scene of “Rocky 4”, in which Balboa is celebrated by the local crowd.
On Saturday night, he will have a shot at immortality and the chance to carve the same path as his on-screen hero.