MIAMI – SFT (Standout Fighting Tournament) MMA welterweight champion Irwing “King Kong” Machado took a circuitous route to his title-winning performance in his last fight this past January, when the late replacement defeated favored Rene “Solado” Pessoa by way of a fifth-round technical knockout with only 47 seconds left in the fight.
Machado started out in judo, switched to Muay Thai before entering college, after which he learned mixed martial arts, turning professional 9 1/2 years ago, only to lose his pro debut. The heavy-handed Machado (16-6-2) has fought and won in five different weight classes, ranging from flyweight to welterweight, which is extremely rare.
Machado got his nickname, “King Kong,” because he was called monkey in school and at his gym, where they started calling him the monkey king, which eventually evolved into “King Kong.”
Last January 25th at SFT 20, the stage was set for No. 1 rated Rene “Soldado” Pesson (21-5-0) to challenge SFT welterweight champion Adriano “The Rock” Balby, but the defending champion pulled out of their fight only three days prior to his scheduled title fight, and the title was vacated.
“Typically,” SFT president David Hudson explained, “I would have just dropped the fight. I didn’t want anybody who hadn’t fought in SFT fighting for our title, but I decided to make an exception because of the high profile of Soldado. He was ranked No. 1 and brought a 3-fight win streak, winning nine of his last 10, into his scheduled fight against Balby.
“Two days before the weigh in, we got ‘King Kong’ to accept the fight. He hadn’t fought in 13 months due to the birth of his child and his father being diagnosed with cancer. ‘King Kong’ only had 36 hours to make weight and fly to Sao Paulo (257 miles from his home in Curitiba) to fight. I thought we were screwed when I saw “King Kong and “Soldado” at the weigh in. The 6′ 2″ ‘Soldado” was five inches taller than “King Kong.” Right before the fight, I asked my matchmaker if he thought “King Kong” could at least survive a round. Many titles in Brazil are worthless and I’ve always wanted SFT titles to be worth something. It turned out to be a helluva fight, though, one of the best I had seen in a long time.”
A powerful Muay Thai fighter who had eight knockouts to his credit, Machado stopped Pessoa at 4:13 of round five to capture the SFT title belt.
“I needed to prove myself,” Machado spoke about why he took this title fight on such short notice. “I knew that he was the best Brazilian fighter, but I had many reasons to get him, and I did. I knew I was ahead going into the fifth and final round, but I never stop fighting, even if I’m ahead like I was, until the fight is over.
“I hadn’t fought for more than a year because we had a baby, Gregorio. I spent a lot of my time with him and working to pay bills. Also, my father had cancer, called multiple myeloma, and I was in a bad way, very sad.”
The win by “King Kong” altered his life, for example, he was even in a McDonald’s commercial, saying, “And now I’m the No. 1 welterweight in Brazil (2nd in Brazilian pound-for-pound rankings to his SFT stablemate, SFT featherweight champion Marcos “Babuino” dos Santos). My life changed a lot, but I am the same person, always laughing and joking. I do want to defend my title belt and fight outside of my country.”
“King Kong” is scheduled to defend his SFT middleweight title December 5th in Brazil versus Eduardo “Camelo” Ramon (16-5-0, SFT: 1-0-0) in Brazil.
It’s been a long, strange trip for “King Kong” and at the age of 31, Irwing Machado is just hitting his prime.