Gleison Tibau has faced some of the best ever in more than 20 years as a professional MMA fighter, from Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson to Rafael dos Anjos and Nick Diaz. But he deals with a different challenge at Friday’s PFL 5 in Atlantic City, NJ.
Unlike any of those previous bouts, Tibau knows he must secure a quick finish to gain enough points to advance to the welterweight playoffs and keep his $1 million dream alive. That said, stopping former UFC fighter and Bellator champion Rory MacDonald is no easy task.
“I knew PFL wouldn’t make it easy for me,” Tibau said in an interview with MMA Fighting, “And they gave me one of the toughest guys in the promotion.”
The Brazilian veteran made his PFL debut in April for his first bout in almost two years, and had his opponent changed a few times before losing a decision to Joao Zeferino.
MacDonald, on the other hand, ran through Curtis Millender in less than four minutes in his first appearance on that same night in Atlantic City, scoring six points and all but guaranteeing himself one of the four spots in the 170-pound playoffs.
With zero points and a standing behind five fighters in the run for the playoffs, Tibau knows that just winning isn’t enough.
“Rory MacDonald is a very experienced and technical guy,” Tibau said. “I don’t see holes (in his game). He’s really good on the feet, and also has wrestling and grappling. We know it’s not an easy fight, especially since I’m looking for more points.
“We know that I just won’t go there and take MacDonald down and submit him with ease. No, he’s experienced. Same thing on the feet. It won’t be easy to go there and knock him out in the first round. Truth is, the strategy for this fight, brother, is to make it a street fight and be more aggressive. I want to brawl — all or nothing.
“Just winning won’t make it for me. I have to win in the first round. That motivates me to go for a brawl and make it a fight. It won’t be easy to submit him, he has a high-level technique, so I’ll make it a fight.”
The Canadian star has only been stopped three times in 29 MMA fights since 2005, and Tibau finds inspiration in former teammate Robbie Lawler, who finished MacDonald in the fifth round of their all-time classic in 2013.
“There’s not much openings in his game,” Tibau said of MacDonald. “I’m inspiring myself by (thinking of) Robbie Lawler in this fight, who went for it against him, to brawl, and kept hurting him until he got the knockout.”