Everyone remembers that high kick! Well, the author himself might be massively known for the one thing, but taken into consideration his entire career achievements, World BJJ Champion, wins over UFC contenders, 2nd most finishes for a heavyweight in the UFC in history, then you know that the kick is only a mere highlight in the Hall of Fame-deserving career! Our interview this week was with a true legend of mixed martial arts, Gabriel Gonzaga!
1. Brazil has always been known as a fighter’s country with BJJ as a necessity. Tell me something more about the entire culture or fighting in Brazil. Is MMA the second biggest sport in Brazil?
I believe today it probably is, but Brasil’s big love is soccer. Brasil also has a strong Judo.
2. You started training judo as a 14-year-old. What attracted you to the sport and when did you actually realize you could fight for a living?
I did it for self-defense and exercise first , then fell in love and winning some tournaments made me keep going, when I was making plans to be a teacher and pro fighter back in 2000.
3. ‘ Napão’ meaning ‘Big Nose’ has been your nickname for a long time. Can you remember when you got it and who gave it to you?
In Brasil bullying each other was normal, and nicknames were provocative. I have big Nostrils and that is what Napão means!
4. How was the first call-up from UFC received? Were you looking into other top promotions or was it a priority to fight in the UFC?
A friend of mine sent my tapes from vale-tudo fights from Brasil and they called me. I didn’t want it that much , but I did it anyway.
I did some fights just to prove myself on the sport , but it wasn’t enough to make money. In my first fight I earned 3k to fight, 3k for victory, but just the medical score the fight was 2k (MRI, AKG, blood work, doctors) plus the trainers and the manager. If I lost that fight, I would leave the stage owning money!
5. Going into your biggest match of the career at the time, fighting Pride’s top talent Mirko Cro Cop Filipović, one of the best heavyweights at the time, what was going through your mind? Was there a point in the training camp where you thought you couldn’t beat Mirko? How did the camp altogether look like, what was your main focus?
My mind is built in Brazilian jiu jitsu , the best sport to give you confidence, and it is the best self-defense martial art , so I had fear to lose but never believe that I would. Bjj , takedown and how to defend myself in the stand up!
6. What was the reason behind your first MMA retirement? Did you start doubting yourself or was it a question of priority, as you have revealed you wanted to do jiu-jitsu tournaments?
I was trying to retire since UFC 77, but God kept putting me back for some reason. I never looked for a fight other than BJJ and Judo, but I didn’t turn down offers either.
Never doubted myself, I can fight anyone in MMA , but the training is hard for my body and the results are unpredictable. Also BJJ has always been my passion, but paying the bills is important and the MMA helps me give a better life to me and my family and friends, but BJJ fulfills my soul and I became a world champion in 2006 and now in 2019!
7. What made you come back to the UFC? Was it for the quest of gold or was it something else?
Money for me and my family!
8. In 2017 you tried yourself in a boxing promotion RPE, winning via a majority-decision. Was boxing something you wanted to do for a long time?
I love boxing, it’s a nice sport and I like challenging myself!
9. Having fought some of the best in the sport of MMA, who would you say was your toughest opponent and for whom did you do your toughest camp?
It’s hard to say but Stipe Miocic was tough! I broke my hand on his head and he barely stumbled and I was hitting hard!
10. And finally, couple of days back your fight against Bigfoot Silva has been announced for the BKFC8. How did that come about? What do you plan on doing after the fight?
Like always, someone called me and made me an offer and I accepted! After this, I will come back to my Brazilian jiu-jitsu students like always!