PRE UFC 70 INTERVIEW: GABRIEL “NAPAO” GONZAGADenis Martins: Dana White and the fans liked your last two performances at UFC. Do you think that if they doubted your game right now there is no more place for this?
Gabriel “Napao” Gonzaga: I don’t have any doubt they always liked my style, because they treated me very well. I think what happened to me is a consequence of my results. I am the current World BJJ champion, I won my last five fights, three of them at UFC, two by KO and one by submission. UFC is the biggest MMA organization and if you intend to stay there you need to give your 110% at the trainings. You need to do good fights, and this is what I am doing.
Denis Martins: UFC chose you to face Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic and the winner of this fight will face Randy Couture for the belt. In my opinion the correct would be someone faces Brandon Vera and then fights for the belt. Why do you think they choose you to face Cro Cop?
Gabriel “Napao” Gonzaga: They didn’t choose me at random. I have road like aforementioned. I also think Mirko will fight for the belt after our fight, but for the light heavyweight belt against Chuck Liddell. In the heavyweight category, the name of the next contender is Gabriel Gonzaga.
Denis Martins: You will be the third Brazilian to face Mirko. What do you see from his fights against Wanderlei Silva and Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira?
Gabriel “Napao” Gonzaga: He is a tough guy and this fight will be a war, but I am very well trained, I have a very good team behind me and I am confident on the victory.
Denis Martins: What kind of strategy will you fight against him?
Gabriel “Napao” Gonzaga: The strategy is to go in the octagon and win the fight either KO or submission. I want to smash him. In his first UFC fight, Eddie Sanchez respected him too much and dropped into Mirko’s trap.
Denis Martins: Is this fight against Cro Cop a way of avenging Silva who lost to him?
Gabriel “Napao” Gonzaga: Silva lost that one, but he controlled Cro Cop in their first match with special rules. And if they fight again I bet on Silva. I can’t go to the octagon thinking on avenging anyone, I need to go there and make my job. I will show I have the ability to beat him.
Denis Martins: How did you see the return of Randy Couture?
Gabriel “Napao” Gonzaga: The heavyweight category improved a lot. The president, Dana White, said he wants the best fighters competing at Ultimate Fighting and he is putting fighters like Minotauro, Cro Cop and Couture and there are a lot of fighters coming soon.
Denis Martins: Until last year you lived in Brazil. How and why did you move to USA?
Gabriel “Napao” Gonzaga:I was planning this long time ago, because to live in MMA in Brazil is nearly impossible. I have a friend who tried to live here and conquered his place in America. His name is Marco Alvan and he is my partner, manager and coach. We always kept in contact and when I won the ADCC Brazilian Trials 2005, I invited him to come to California with me. So I went to his city to know his place. I liked and I came back in the last years to see if I was taking the correct decision. In the end of last year I moved with my family to live definitively here.
Denis Martins: Did you have a new team in USA?
Gabriel “Napao” Gonzaga: Marco and me lived in same district in Rio de Janeiro. I trained with Wander Braga, and Marco with Carlos Augusto. In that period he had a store and he always supported me. I went to Sao Paulo, made my team and Marco went to America to make his one. When I decided to come to USA to work we joined the teams and created the Link BJJ. With have seven academies and we are affiliating other three until the end of April. We have around 300 students and the guys are very well trained. We are a new team, but even so we won NAGA 2006 by teams, with nearly the double of the points of the second place.
Denis Martins: In Brazil you trained with ChuteBoxe and Macaco Gold Team. How is your relationship with them?
Gabriel “Napao” Gonzaga: Better impossible, nothing changed. When I went to fight in the octagon I always rise with the flag of these teams. Jorge Patino is my brother and I am always thankful to him. The ChuteBoxe is my team too and our partnership is huge. I do have trouble to go to Curitiba and because of that I do not go to Brazil to train with them. But I am MGT/ChuteBoxe.
Denis Martins: How are your trainings in USA?
Gabriel “Napao” Gonzaga: We have a very strong structure here. We have coaches of Wrestling, Boxing and Muay Thai. My Boxing coach, Cebola, comes to train me too. The ground is with me and Marco.
Denis Martins: In the beginning of your career you fought against Fabricio Werdum, and he is fighting for the UFC now. How would be the re-match?
Gabriel “Napao” Gonzaga: I think this would be a very good fight, we are with more experience and we train with more conditions now. This would be an excellent fight for the fans. But this we will think later. Now I have a strong fighter in my front.
Denis Martins: You always compete in BJJ and Submission, will you dedicate yourself only to MMA now?
Gabriel “Napao” Gonzaga: Jiu-Jitsu is my root and I don’t intend to leave the gi. When possible I’ll conciliate MMA with Jiu-Jitsu and Submission.
Denis Martins: Last word before UFC 70?
Gabriel “Napao” Gonzaga: I would like to thank my team Link BJJ for the support given. I would like to invite people on Massachusetts to join our academy. We have a huge structure here and our doors are open. I would like to thank my fans for the support and the results I have are for my trainings and for their support. They can be right that Gabriel “Napao” Gonzaga will go to conquer this belt. I would like to thank my sponsors Red Nose and Kimonos Dragão. For sponsors and seminars contact firstname.lastname@example.org – talk with Marco.