Mitch Gagnon, the UFC bantamweight who at present is an ascending prospect for fanatical UFC fans, is a man on a path that could lead him into the minds of the casual ones as well. The Sturgeon Falls native is on the cusp of mixed martial arts glory as he steps onto the flattened canvas of a UFC octagon in Brazil, the hotbed for some of the sports most notorious champions as well as his future opponent; former bantamweight champion Renan Barao.
Barao is the clear favourite in this scenario and like any intelligent fighter does, Gagnon has embraced that fact, letting his attitude exude that he is determined to rewrite that destiny on December 20 in São Paulo. Fighting represents a myriad of physical challenges, but also a never ending battle of mental challenges, with stakes as high as these, Gagnon’s attitude only seems to provide a luminous light ahead. The lines which represent this idea are often written on his Facebook page which includes a collection of quotes like the following:
‘In Brazil they are saying…WINTER IS COMING!’
‘I started the brand Constant Aggression because to me it meant never giving up. Pushing forward with an ironwill’
These ideas of force, resilience, momentum and pure grit and determination are the building blocks which could see Gagnon sincerely take out the Brazilian. These are also the reflection of his project ‘I don’t see an Underdog’ for his brand Constant Aggression. His words (also shared on his Facebook page) in this idea are the plain writings of a fighter who uses his status as an ‘underdog’ into his personal mix for victory:
‘It’s all about having that self-belief. We hope this will motivate you to share some of your stories. I’m living proof that if you change your mindset you can change your entire world’.
The words have been written, and they could come into fruition for the submission artist during Fight Night 58–his world looks to have already shifted a great deal even with the announcement of the fight itself. In a recent interview , documented on TSN.ca, Gagnon expressed his praise for being offered the fight, understanding his successes during his two year tear were worthy of exposure, but not to this extent.
“Obviously I think it’s the perfect time, but did I think [Barao] would be offered to me? No! I was just ranked [in the top 15] after the fight [with Salazar]. I really thought I would have had to fight a top-10 or top-five guy to get near the top. Do I think it’s the perfect time for me? Yeah, I believe I’m putting everything together well and feel it’s my time.”
After a much anticipated re-match with the man who dominated him for close to 5 rounds, Renan Barao finds himself in a grey zone. He missed out on his second opportunity against TJ Dilishaw,suffering a grueling weight cut accident that had to force Barao to pull out of his re match the day before the bout in May. The incident is the path that Barao had to endure to end up in front of ascending talent, Mitch Gagnon. So who truly has more to prove? Of course, Gagnon, the man who embraces the ‘underdog’ status he has been granted would surely like to ‘shock’ the world.
But Barao, the former champion who on many levels was considered the ‘pound for pound best fighter in the world’ for having an rare and impressive 9 year undefeated streak, is out to seek vengeance. He is out to re claim what he truthfully believes is his and has made it clear to the world that he will never let the events of UFC 173 happen again.
Unfortunately for Barao and his quest for redemption, Mitch is on a greater trajectory. One which in some ways benefits him on many more fronts than Barao. One being that the opportunity in itself is a fruitful one, being that Gagnon has a chance to propel himself up in the division if he can take out the #1 contender. The other comes in the form of exposure– although Gagnon has been in the UFC since 2012 submitting his opponents (after his loss to Bryan Carraway) into a tapping flurry, casual fans still haven’t had the chance to know his rightful place in the sport.
Although Gagnon’s route has been a spell of submission victories, that does not mean that his style of fighting in general is on dimensional– in fact his aggressive nature as well as overwhelming push of pressure could be enough to break Barao. As stated, the Brazilian is on a much different quest than Gagnon which I believe will define Barao’s champions spirit if he can make it past Gagnon’s stiff wall.
So, as the UFC has re iterated in the past few months ‘the time is now’ and if anyone is securely fastened for the ride, it’s Mitch Gagnon. He’ll bring winter to Brazil and remind them where Underdogs reside from.