Junior “Baby” Albini was born in Paranagua, Brazil on March 15th, 1991. Not coming from a wealthy background, Albini and his family did not have an easy life.
Albini began boxing training at the age of 13 to lose weight as he was 350lbs (25 stone) and as they say, the rest is history. Also, in this time, Albini was training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, all things that have helped the 26-year-old become the cultivated fighter he is today. In an interview with MMAJunkie, Albini said: ““I started boxing at age 13. I took up boxing because I weighed 165 kilograms (364 pounds). I had morbid obesity. I needed physical activity to lose weight and improve my health. I boxed for about a year. At 14 years old, I started jiu-jitsu, and I stayed active in both while still going to school. At age 18, I (turned pro). Now, after eight years, I’m in the UFC. My initial goal was just to lose weight, but I ended up enjoying fighting, and I stuck with it. There was no long-term plan.”
Making his professional debut in 2009 against the wishes of his family, Baby proved his boxing training had paid off with a knockout victory over Bruno Alboitt. Albini then showed his Jiu-Jitsu off with his second victory over Marcos Vinicius where it was a triangle choke that gifted the win to the Brazilian. Albini won his next two fights against Everton Panda and Fernando Tressino. Sitting pretty on a 4-0 record the BJJ brown belt lost two fights on the bounce, both by submission to Nelson Jaca and Alberto Emiliano. Albini found his fire again and won his next two fights, another triangle choke victory and a decision victory over Julio Bizzarri and Alison Vicente. With a 6-2 record, Albini found his home with Aspera FC. Albini stockpiled a nine-fight win streak and became the heavyweight champion before being signed with the UFC and giving in his Aspera FC strap.
Fighting for free was now over for Albini, 15 fights without earning a penny was a struggle for the Brazilian and his family. In an interview with A.G Fight, he said: “It was all a big sacrifice”. Albini spoke about the last few years when he worked as a waiter on the weekends, earning just enough money to scrape by. “I would say ‘one more year.’ I borrowed [money] and believed in the dream. My wife always supported me and believed that I would get [to the UFC]. It went like this for four years, I was cutting back everything in order to be able to live under the minimum conditions that allowed me to eat well. When my wife became pregnant, the situation became more difficult. But then when [my daughter] started walking and she was ten months old, that was when it became even more difficult. It was rough for [my wife] because she feared to be harming her childhood and never be able to get her things she could have had. This last year was more difficult when [my daughter] started talking and I thought about quitting almost every day.”
Slick submissions, a legit wrestling game and merciless knockout power were all tools Albini had in his arsenal. But for his first opponent Tim Johnson, Albini’s abilities were a complete mystery as there is virtually no videos of the Brazilian’s aforementioned fights. This bowed well for the hard hitter as it only took three minutes for Johnson to feel the wrath from Albini as he won his first fight in MMA’s greatest proving ground via TKO. A 50k bonus changed Albini’s life “With this financial part [fixed for now], I can focus on the training.” Albini said, “I will try to keep the same pattern as before, but with more quality of life and tranquillity, both for my daughter and my wife.” Even during the week before he banked the bonus though, Albini had to make things work with the money the UFC gave him for fight week. Instead of only food, the 26-year-old decided to also spend the money on toys for his daughter for the first time. “Actually, I bought dolls with the food money that the UFC gives us to spend on groceries during the week”, said Albini. “I went out to buy things and I ended up seeing the dolls, because here in Brazil it’s very expensive, and I bought it for my daughter with that money. I want to give the best for them, but I also don’t want to exaggerate it. I want to try to keep a good standard but save as much as I can. I’m new and I believe I can get some things done [in the UFC]. I don’t want to touch a big part of the money, I want to save it.”
Just four months later, Albini faced his toughest test yet in former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski. Albini gave it his all, he fell into the trap of head hunting and was trying to knock out the former champ in the first round. When this failed, Albini did not seem to have a plan b. The fight went to the judges and the Brazilian saved Arlovski the embarrassment of a sixth straight loss with a poor performance. “I believe that I believed too much in his recent history and what people was telling me,” he told MMA Fighting. “People said I would knock him out easily, that he would go down with the power of my hands, and that didn’t happen. I fought to knock him out and he fought to win, and his plan worked.” Looking back, Albini says that taking this fight less than four months after his debut wasn’t the smart thing to do. He said “yes” when offered this fight by the UFC because “Arlovski was at the end of his career, so I felt it was an obligation take the fight because it was a good opportunity, but taking fights back-to-back was mentally tiring.”
Following this defeat, Albini has expressed his desire to join American Top Team and become a much greater mixed martial artist. At the age of 26, the BJJ brown belt really does have the ambition and potential to go far in the UFC and ATT will be able to help him achieve just that. With Fabricio Werdum, Jose Aldo and Renan Barao all coming to the back end of their careers Brazil is looking for someone to carry the torch for the country. I think Albini could do just that on his path to becoming the baddest man on the planet!