Ulysses Gomez file photo: Jeff Sherwood | Sherdog.com
When it comes to mixed martial arts, the 125-pound weight class has only started to catch on in North America, but for Ulysses Gomez, the division has always been his home.
Gomez -- who trains at Marc Laimon’s Cobra Kai and Ken Hahn’s Striking Unlimited in Las Vegas -- has been a flyweight his entire professional career, which dates back to March 2008. The 27-year-old has no intentions of a permanent change in weight anytime soon, either.
“I always tell people [the] only way I’ll move up from 125 is to clean out the division, I run into somebody I just can’t beat or I grow out of it,” says Gomez, who has recorded five submissions in his six victories. “To be honest, it will probably be me growing out of it more than anything. Until I feel like I can’t wait any longer, or making the cut to 125 severely affects my performance, I want to keep making 125.”
Gomez, the Tachi Palace Fights flyweight champion, is scheduled to compete in the upcoming Bellator Fighting Championships 135-pound tournament and will face Travis Reddinger in the opening round on Sept. 2 in San Antonio. He says preparing for the tournament will not be any different than getting ready for any other fight and believes Bellator’s tournament schedule of three fights in three months actually will help him in his quest to stay at 125 pounds.
“I signed to be in the tournament back in May and didn’t start picking up my training until Bellator told me when my first fight would be,” Gomes says. “I get pretty big between fights. I actually walk around in the 150s, and I cut down to 125. I struggle a lot to make 125, but, with the tournament being at 135, I’ll have to struggle less with the cut.
“I kind of look at this as a better chance for me to make 125 and stay there for a while,” he adds. “When I’m in the Bellator tournament, I have to make 135 each month for three months, so it’s going to make it easier for me to get down to 125. It gets a little tough sometimes, and I don’t recommend it for everybody. It’s affected my performance in some of my previous fights.”
Gomez’s last appearance came on May 5, when he posted a five-round unanimous decision victory over Luis Gonzalez and won the TPF flyweight title in Lemoore, Calif. In that fight, Gomez landed several uppercuts in the first round that had Gonzalez on his bicycle, but he could not seal the deal. After the verdict was announced in Gomez’s favor, the crowd booed the decision, but Gomez feels like he was the clear-cut winner.
“I think the reason why the decision wasn’t popular was that [Gonzalez] is from that area,” he says. “Two of the judges had it four [rounds] to one for me, and the other had it three [rounds] to two for me. I felt OK with my performance, but I did struggle some to make weight. I was a bit dehydrated, but that’s my own fault.”
Conditioning and striking are at the top of Gomez’s list of facets on which he wants to improve as his career evolves.
“As far as my strong points, my record doesn’t lie,” he says. “Submissions are my strong point. My weaknesses right now might be making everything as strong as possible. I need to work on tightening up my wrestling and striking and getting my cardio up there.”
The Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt has won four straight fights since dropping a unanimous decision to Rambaa “M-16” Somdet in just his third professional appearance. Somdet, Shooto’s 115-pound champion, has won seven consecutive bouts and is considered by many to be one of the top fighters in the world under 125 pounds.
“I didn’t realize the magnitude of how good [Somdet] was when I fought him,” Gomez says, recalling their November 2008 encounter. “That was a fight that maybe I shouldn’t have taken at that point in time. I had made a steady progression in my first two fights, and he was world-ranked. I’m not sure I should’ve fought him when I did, but he beat me fair and square.
“He dropped me like three or four times in the first round, and I vaguely remember that first round,” he adds. “I’ve trained with world champs and a lot of tough guys in training and not been knocked down, but this guy dropped me. What I learned more than anything from that fight was that even though I didn’t win, I was still able to finish the fight. I didn’t mentally check out. If he’d stopped me in the first round, I’d have been embarrassed, but I lost a decision, so it wasn’t so bad."
Gomez also holds the honor of being the first American to win a gold medal at the FILA Pankration World Championships. He won the 2007 competition in Antalya, Turkey, and described the trip as “cool all the way through.”
“Being able to represent the U.S. was awesome,” Gomez says. “When I started, did I ever think I’d get the chance to go to Turkey? Never in my wildest dreams.”
With a Bellator fight scheduled for September, possible Bellator dates in October and November and a TPF title defense in the works for December, Gomez could be busy for the rest of 2010. He likes it that way.
“I’ve fought three times a year so far, and that’s my goal,” he says. “I’d like to stay busy, but it can be hard to find balance in there between training and fighting.”