After fighting for some 15 years, 37-year-old Renato “Babalu” Sobral has retired from mixed martial arts.
Although he faltered late in his career as nearly all combat athletes do, Babalu was for years a top-10 lightheavyweight.
The Marco Ruas protege (he later swtiched to Gracie Barra, in 2003) started fighting in his native Brazil, going 4-0. He then moved to Akira Maeda’s Rings organization in Japan, going 11-3 there. His only losses were to Dan Henderson, Valentijn Overeem, and a decision loss to Fedor Emelianenko.
During this period, he also made two stops in the USA, beating Brad Kohler by soccer kick in the WEF, and Mo Smith by split decision in the UFC
That is enough fights at the highest levels of the sport for some to call it a career, but Babalu was barely warming up. In 2000 alone, he fought ten times.
In 2002 he entered the UFC, with one win and two losses, to future UFC champion Chuck Liddell and past UFC champion Kevin Randleman.
He then fought for a variety or oganizations internationally, including one of the greatest performances in the history of the sport. Sobral beat Trevor Prangley by three round decision, then handed Shogun Rua his first loss ever with a third round submission, and then beat Jeremy Horn by three round decision, winning the event title. He did it all in one night.
He then went back to the UFC, in 2005, going 4-2, losing to Chuck Liddell in a title shot.
Late in 2007 he want back on the international circuit, winning the Strikeforce light heavyweight title.
In 2010 Sobral was injured in a snowboarding accident, and contemplated retirement, but he healed and returned to the cage with a quick submission win over Tatsuya Mizuno in Asia’s ONE FC.
Babalu then signed with Bellator, but the years caught up with him, and Wednesday night he lost his fight in the oganization. Babalu then put on his gi, laid his gloves down in the center of the cage, bowed in respect to the fans and to the sport, and retired.
“It’s kind of highly emotional for me to talk about this right now,” said Sobral at the post fight press conference. “But I think maybe I’ve been in the cage more than everybody in this room here. I lived the life. That’s what I want to say. I have no regrets. I was happy to help this sport grow.”
“I’ll keep continuing to help the sport to grow, but I won’t fight anymore. I wished for a good fight. I wish I could have been faster. I wish I could have been stronger than I used to be. But my body cannot continue to do this anymore, and it’s time for me to step out.”
With multiple international titles and wins over Jose ‘Pele’ Landi, Chael Sonnen, Jeremy Horn, Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua, Robbie Lawler and Maurice Smith, Babalu leaves a legacy of toughness, technique, and excitement that earned the respect of all.
And if you are curious about the nickname, he explained in an interview with CagePotato 🙂
“The nickname was given to me by a friend when I was 11 years old,” said Sobral. “It is the name of a chewing gum. I used to wear red shirts which resembled the gum’s wrapper. Your nickname is not something you can change — the more you dislike it, the more people will call you that to make fun of you. Here in the U.S. people have nicknames like ‘The Killer’ or ‘The Assassin,’ but it’s different in Brazil. Their nicknames are things like ‘Big Head’ and ‘Owl’s Face.’ You don’t get to pick your own. This nickname was given to me, and there’s nothing I can do about it.”