Gonzaga Confirms Bout Against Mirko CroCop For UFC 70

0

The following is an article from The Republican:

Fighter faces Ultimate challenge

By JASON REMILLARD
[email protected]

LUDLOW – From the outside, the little storefront on East Street that houses the Marco Alvan Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Academy looks like any other martial arts school.

Inside, however, Alvan is helping his top protg and childhood friend from Brazil train for the biggest fight of his Ultimate Fighting Championship career.

Gabriel “Napao” Gonzaga, who moved to Ludlow last summer from Rio de Janeiro, is 3-0 on the UFC's pay-per-view events and holds a 7-1 overall mixed martial arts record.

That recent string of success has led to Gonzaga, 27, taking on his toughest challenge to date. On April 21 in Manchester, England, he will face one of the most feared fighters in the world – Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic – in the main event of “UFC 70.”

“That's the most important commitment of my life,” Gonzaga said through Alvan, his trainer and interpreter. “Everybody knows (Filipovic) is the No.1 fighter in the world at the moment.”

Filipovic, a former anti-terrorism commando in the Croatian special police, has built a reputation in the mixed martial arts community for his devastating knockout power. He is especially proficient at ending fights with his high left-leg kicks to the head.

With his penchant for putting opponents to sleep quickly, Filipovic is UFC's version of Mike Tyson, circa 1986.

In order to play the Buster Douglas role, Gonzaga will have to take Filipovic off his feet and look to end the fight with one of his array of Brazilian jiu jitsu submission holds.

“I know what I'm going to do to win this fight,” Gonzaga said. “I think he has enough skills on the ground, but he's a dangerous stand-up fighter.”

Gonzaga's most recent outing inside the Octagon opened the eyes of UFC matchmakers. At “UFC 66” Dec. 30 in Las Vegas, Gonzaga showed all facets of his fighting style in a first-round victory over Carmelo Marrero.

The 6-foot-1, 242-pound Gonzaga rocked Marrero with a hard punch before taking him to the mat to begin a textbook display of Brazilian jiu jitsu. Marrero fought out of an attempted side choke, but eventually succumbed to a perfect armbar.

Marrero had no other option but to tap out, giving the former bouncer the victory by submission. Gonzaga reportedly earned $18,000 for only three minutes, 22 seconds of work.

“My team studied Carmelo Marrero a lot, and we knew, sooner or later, the fight was going to end on the ground,” Gonzaga said. “I was glad to be able to get the takedown early and be able to apply my Brazilian jiu jitsu.”

Gonzaga also is a proficient striker, as he showed when ending his first two UFC outings by knockout. He has learned many techniques from his boxing coach Clayton Robertson Jr. and muay Thai (Thai boxing) coach Elcio Machado, both of whom are part of Alvan's Team Link.

“We have excellent coaches and partners, and it's made me improve a lot,” Gonzaga said. “That's made me feel ready.”

At first, it did not look like Gonzaga's stay in the UFC would be a long one. He looked sluggish and uninspired in a knockout win over Kevin Jordan Nov. 19, 2005. However, it was later revealed that Gonzaga's wife suffered a miscarriage in the weeks prior to the fight – losing one of the couple's expected twin daughters.

Gonzaga spent his time caring for his family and was not able to train properly for the fight. After defeating Fabiano Scherner last May, Gonzaga apologized for his previous performance in his post-fight interview.

A lot has changed since then. Gonzaga settled in Ludlow with his wife and 1-year old daughter last summer, and both his professional and personal life are growing by leaps and bounds.

Gonzaga credits the large Portuguese community in Ludlow – especially fellow Alvan students Daniel Juliano and Gene Martins – for helping him adjust to his new surroundings.

“The Portuguese – they are our brothers, so I already have great, great friends,” Gonzaga said. “I have met a lot of great fans, and I would like to raise my daughter in this town.”

Gonzaga's grappling expertise is not limited to the UFC Octagon. Last summer, he won the championship in the black belt heavyweight division at the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu World Cup. In 2005, Gonzaga was the runner-up at the prestigious Abu Dhabi grappling championship.

It was that experience that caught the attention of UFC officials, who approached Gonzaga two years ago with the opportunity of a lifetime.

“Napao has been training in everything, but definitely his strong point is the ground,” Alvan said. “He's been training in Brazilian jiu jitsu for awhile, and if he can take the fight to the ground, that's what he's going to do.”

For more information, go to Gonzaga's Web site, www.linkbjj.com.

DISCUSS THIS NEWS IN THE MMANEWS.COM FORUMS >>

Latest MMA News

Yoel Romero

Yoel Romero vs. Robert Whittaker Set For Interim Title Bout at UFC 213

The stage is set for an interim title bout between Yoel Romero and Robert Whittaker. UFC 213 was supposed to be headlined by a bantamweight...
Khabib Nurmagomedov

Khabib Nurmagomedov Has Sights Set on Interim Title Bout in October

Khabib Nurmagomedov is eyeing an interim lightweight title bout this fall. At UFC 209 back in March, "The Eagle" was set to do battle against...
Dana White

Dana White on Cris Cyborg-Angela Magana Incident: ‘It’s Very Serious’

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) President Dana White recognizes the severity of Cris Cyborg's incident at a recent Athlete Retreat. Cyborg and Angela Magana had a...
Lorenz Larkin

Lorenz Larkin on UFC Run: ‘That’s a Chapter in my Life That’s Gone’

Lorenz Larkin wants to leave his time with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in the past. Larkin will be making his Bellator debut on June...
Rory MacDonald Weigh-In

Rory MacDonald Says UFC ‘Easily Let Things Slip Through Their Fingers’

Rory MacDonald feels the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) doesn't keep tabs on things as much as they should. After losses to Robbie Lawler and Stephen...
Jorge Masvidal

Jorge Masvidal: ‘I Only Want The Highest-Ranked Dudes’

Jorge Masvidal is ready to dust himself off and move on to the next one. At UFC 211, Masvidal took on Demian Maia inside the...
Cris Cyborg

Cris Cyborg Releases Statement on Incident With Angela Magana

Things got physical between Cris Cyborg and Angela Magana at the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Athlete Retreat. In a video released by Cage Pages, Cyborg...
Ryan Couture

Ryan Couture on Bellator 180 Bout: ‘I Don’t Think Size Will be a Big...

Ryan Couture doesn't believe size will play a huge factor in his bout at Bellator 180. On June 24, Couture will meet Haim Gozali inside Madison...
Yair Rodriguez

Yair Rodriguez on UFC 211 Loss: ‘I am Better Than That’

Yair Rodriguez has broken his silence over his one-sided loss to Frankie Edgar. Rodriguez competed against "The Answer" inside the American Airlines Center in Dallas,...
Glover Teixeira

Glover Teixeira on Alexander Gustafsson Bout: ‘It Will Probably Last All Rounds’

Glover Teixeira is preparing for a five-round war against Alexander Gustafsson. Teixeira will go one-on-one with Gustafsson this Sunday night (May 28) inside the Ericsson Globe...