Gabriel Gonzaga (Pictures) was the protagonist of one of the greatest surprises this year when he knocked out Mirko Filipovic (Pictures) in the main event at UFC 70. The Brazilian, however, was not surprised by his own performance.
"The fight ran as I planned," Gonzaga told Sherdog.com. "I didn't play Mirko's game and I imposed my strategy all over the fight. This was the result of a lot of dedication."
The way in which the victory happened -- by knockout -- was something Gonzaga trained for throughout his sparring sessions. Gonzaga said he studied the Croatian's dangerous game, which was responsible for hurting many top mixed martial artists in the past, and found in the details the strategy he followed less than two weeks ago.
"I trained a lot of striking on my feet," Gonzaga revealed. "My team watched all of his fights and we chose the best strategy against him. We knew Mirko's every single step. Kicks, punches, combos, takedown defenses -- we didn't miss a thing. Starting at this point I imposed my game and I knew he would despise my striking skills. The KO was a matter of time. A lot of things were new to him in that fight, so I applied a strategy he didn't know yet."
Gonzaga did all this despite knowing how important the fight against "Cro Cop" could be to his career.
"Actually my manager spoke to me about this even before the match was confirmed," said the Brazilian heavyweight. "We knew it was supposed to be a very interesting fight. When we signed the contract, I forgot everything else and I only trained for this for two months."
It's been a fast rise to stardom for Gonzaga in the UFC, and he did not forget to praise the mixed martial arts organization. "This card was awesome," he said of the UFC's return to the UK. "The audience was full, there was 14,000 people over there. Everything was perfect, and the organization has my congratulations. They are better every time."
Now comes the reward. In Gonzaga's next appearance in the Octagon he'll challenge for the UFC heavyweight title against champion Randy Couture (Pictures).
"Randy is a real champion," praised Gonzaga. "He is a model of dedication to all of us, and he has nothing left to prove to anybody. This will be a very anticipated fight by the fans and, in the name of my respect to him, I will train double what I trained to face ‘Cro Cop.'"
With several specialists in every single area of mixed martial arts, Gonzaga's team provides him hard challenges in the gym everyday. The result is obvious by his performances in the Octagon, where he is 4-0.
"My training sessions are outstanding," said Gonzaga. "I train Muay Thai, wrestling, boxing and Brazilian jiu-jitsu with top specialists. My coaches are better and they lead me to my top shape. My teammates are great, and I would like to introduce you two names that you will hear called a lot in the near future: Ricardo Funch and Karn Gregorian. They are two aces. They both have three knockouts in three fights; soon they will debut in major organizations. I'm living in Ludlow (Massachusetts) and my team -- Team Link -- in partnership with Marco Alvan, have very good facilities. We have seven gyms already, and the students are doing well."
Gonzaga promised that there are a lot of good things to come on his career, and the heavyweight title is at the top of the list.
"I'm following the way I choose and I want to be the champion," he said. "You can expect for the strongest and most prepared Gonzaga for the next fight."
Gonzaga is undoubtedly one of the toughest athletes in his weight class, and much of that is due to his determination combined with his team's work. The result of these things is very convincing victories and an electrified audience every time he fights.
"This victory was a dedicated victory, with determination and faith," he explained. "I dedicate this to everybody who trusted me. I would like to thank to my sponsors, who gave all support to my training season. They are Discover Marble & Granite and Kimonos Dragão. I would like to invite every athlete who wants to join our team, our team is newborn, and our doors are open to everybody who wants to come. And to the ones who would like to sponsor me, please contact me by the email firstname.lastname@example.org."