Gonzaga on Title Shot: “I Have What it Takes to Get Back There”
When longtime UFC veteran Gabriel Gonzaga submitted Ben Rothwell with a guillotine choke on January 19th, it looked like his second stint with the organization was headed straight to the top. However, a series of vicious elbows by top contender Travis Browne derailed the Brazilian heavyweight’s course once again. Nevertheless, “Napao” refuses to believe his best days are already over.
Instead, Gonzaga, who’s set to face Dave Herman next Saturday at UFC 162, still thinks he can make it back to the title shot, a position he earned on April of 2007 with a historic head kick knockout over Mirko Cro Cop, only to be then TKO’ed by former champ Randy Couture. The 34-year-old jiu-jitsu specialist stated the following to the MMA Junkie Radio:
“Until my body is ready to go, I think (I’ll keep fighting). I don’t have a date (to retire). As long as I still feel healthy to do it, I’m going to do it. My skill level, I definitely do have. You need to have good fights and a good showing for the crowd, like a knockout, and then you go faster to the title shot. If you keep winning the fights and aren’t so exciting, they still hold you back. With the skills, I have what it takes to get back there.”
However, he will have to face an opponent in Dave Herman whose back is certainly against the wall. The 28-year-old American has lost three fights in a row, most recently being submitted by Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at UFC 153. That submission defeat came in the wake of a bold statement by Herman, who said that brazilian jiu-jitsu does not work. “It’s useless”, said Herman, “Wrestling means you don’t need to worry about jiu-jitsu. I’ve never lost by submission and I am not worried about it at all.”
When asked about those words, Gonzaga preferred to take the high road. “I know he’s doing that just to be controversial”, said Napao, “It’s impossible that Dave Herman doesn’t train jiu-jitsu because he knows the importance. In my opinion, he’s training jiu-jitsu and training how to avoid (submissions). If you train how to avoid wrestling, you’re training wrestling. If you train how to avoid striking, you’re training striking.”
“Wherever the fight goes, I need to be prepared to be there. I’m trying to bring back a little bit of punching and kicking, but if the fight goes to the ground, I need to be ready to apply my jiu-jitsu. The striking – the knockout – is a good feeling because you’re not expecting it, and one punch can finish the fight. With a submission, you set up the threat. Your movement to get to the position is different. The fans like to see it, but the fans really like to see blood and people falling with the knockouts.”
UFC 162 is set to go down on July 6th at Las Vegas, Nevada, headlined by the middleweight title bout between Anderson Silva and Chris Weidman.