Kleber
Koike Erbst
has no issue being the underdog in his champion vs.
champion bout against Bellator featherweight title holder Patricio
Freire
at Rizin
40
on New Year’s Eve.

“I’ve always admired Patricio as one of the most complete fighters
in MMA. A few hours after I captured the Rizin belt I got that
invitation. I knew it was a huge challenge but after everything
I’ve been through, a challenge like that is like a blessing,” Erbst
told Sherdog.com.

Erbst is a close friend and business partner of Rizin lightweight
champion Roberto de
Souza
. Together they run six branches of the Bonsai Jiu-Jitsu
academy around Tokyo.

“Over the past five years we can say that we both have a good life
in Japan, living only from the sport, but things were never easy
for us,” Erbst said. 

Born in São Paulo into a humble family of Japanese descendants,
Kleber decided that he would try to live in the land of his
maternal grandfather. At the age of 14, he landed in Japan to
work.

“My goal was to work to return to Brazil with some money and help
my parents. At the age of 15 I got my first job in
a chicken slaughterhouse, but it didn’t last too
long. My second job was a dog nanny, later a garbage man, then
in a painting factory. When I turned 18, I was able to work at
an automaker (Suzuki), where I started working 11 hours a day.”

Even though he was very tired after those long shifts, Erbst
decided to accept the invitation of a Japanese uncle, who was a a
huge Pride Fighting Championships fan, to train judo.

“I took a class and immediately fell in love. Then I went to
jiu-jitsu,” he said.

Inspried by Antonio
Rodrigo Nogueira
, who was a big name in jiu-jitsu during the
Pride era, Erbst decided to transition to MMA in 2008, and he did
very well in his debut.

“I couldn’t stop celebrating,” he said. “The sensation of that
first win in a ring was just unbelievable and I felt I was born for
that.”

  Nine years later, Erbst already had a 23-3 record
when he captured the KSW belt with a victory over Marcin
Wrzosek
. He would submit two more opponents under the KSW
banner before losing to Mateusz
Gamrot
. After that defeat, he was exposed to the dark side of
the sport.

“When I lost to Gamrot, the KSW people wanted me to sign a new
contract with much worse terms. Since I didn’t agree, they didn’t
renew it,” Erbst recalls.

With 29 wins in 33 fights, Erbst believed it wouldn’t be difficult
to get a spot in the UFC.

“[UFC matchmaker] Sean Shelby said he wasn’t interested because I
[was coming off a] loss. One Championship had the same speech, but
at least, they told me that if I fought in their access event in
Japan and won, they would sign me. That’s what I did, finishing
Akiyo
Nishiura
in September 2019, but then COVID came and the
contract never arrived,” he said. “I was more than a year
without fighting until ‘Satoshi’ got a spot for me to fight at
Rizin on Dec. 31, 2020 at Saitama Super Arena. I knew my only
chance to get signed was to get a finish. When I got the choke,
that’s when I yelled for the first time ‘Vou Pegar.’”

The strange attitude of the Brazilian attracted the attention
of Japanese fans and media. 

“The Japanese fans loved it and after they understood what I was
screaming, they started to ask me to do that every fight,” Erbst
said.

The success of “Vou Pegar” made the Brazilian decide to create his
own brand of shirts, which today is very successful with the
fans.

“The only fight I didn’t scream, the fans complained a lot,” he
said. “It’s curious that sometimes I’m walking on the streets here
in Tokyo and I hear screams out of nowhere ‘Vou Pegar.’”

The Rizin featherweight chmp is aware that the next fight will be
the toughest challenge of his career but promises to give his best
to finish it with his classic scream.

“‘Pitbull’ is smaller than me, but he has a good sense of distance.
But he will fight in Rizin’s ring and Rizin’s rules. I am aware
that it will be a very tough fight, but I will try to impose my
game and give my shout out. I know it will be a war. Anyway, it
will be an honor for me after all I’ve been through to be fighting
in the most important event of the year in Japan against one
of the best featherweights in MMA history. I’ve always been a
‘Pitbull’ fan and on the day of the weigh-in he just proved what a
great champion he is outside the ring. Super humble and
respectful.”

No matter how the fight against Freire ends, Erbst is certain of
one thing.

“This will be the best New Year’s Eve of my life,” he said.





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Kleber Koike Erbst Discusses Rizin 40 Fight vs. Patricio Freire, Origin of T-Shirt Brand

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