by John Morgan on Jan 07, 2013 at 6:40 pm ET on MMAJunkie.com
Gegard Mousasi (32-3-2 MMA, 3-1-1 SF) knows there are no guarantees that he’s heading to the UFC, but if he gets there, the 27-year-old intends on fighting for a title.
“I feel like I have the potential to be a UFC champion,” Mousasi told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com). “I’m training like it, and with time I’m going to prove people wrong. I just need to fight big names and win.”
Hardcore fans have had Mousasi on their radar for years. Casual fans might not be as well acquainted with his work, but Mousasi is technically the reigning DREAM light heavyweight champion (though the future of that promotion is anything but certain) and was the Strikeforce 205-pound title holder until he was defeated by Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal in April 2010.
Since that time, Mousasi looked rather unimpressive in a win over Ovince St. Preux and a draw with Keith Jardine and was then forced to the sidelines for the entirety of 2012. In many ways, the former top-ranked fighter became a forgotten man.
Mousasi said he doesn’t take offense to anyone who has started to doubt his skills.
“I don’t mind,” Mousasi said. “I don’t think about proving anything to anybody.”
But he has thought about proving something to himself. Mousasi admits a 2006 loss to Akihiro Gono impacted his enthusiasm for competition, and the 2010 result against Lawal brought him even lower.
“After the Gono fight, I lost a lot of motivation, but that was a long time ago,” Mousasi said. “Since then, things were going very well. I picked up the motivation and things were going good. But after the ‘King Mo’ fight, I was very disappointed. I think I lacked even more motivation.”
But a year away from the sport changed all that. Mousasi said he missed the competition and the time away strengthened his focus in the gym.
“I think it was good to have a break,” Mousasi said. “I wasn’t motivated in my past few fights, so I’m trying to see it in a positive way. Now I’m ready. I’m training hard, and I’m in great shape.
“My conditioning is where it should be, and it wasn’t in my previous fights. I believe I was training in a comfort zone, and everything was going well. But now I’m good. I think the one-year layoff did it. And of course the possibility of going to the UFC.”
Standing in his way is Mike Kyle (19-8-1 MMA, 2-3-1 SF), a gritty veteran with heavy hands and a nasty disposition. The two face off on Saturday on the Showtime-broadcast main card of Saturday’s “Strikeforce: Marquardt vs. Saffiedine” event, which takes place at Oklahoma City’s Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The event serves as the final fight card for Strikeforce, which has already started to cede some of its talent to the UFC. With a victory, Mousasi would seem to be a certainty for the octagon.
While he doesn’t want to look past the task at hand, Mousasi is excited about the potential of fighting in the world’s largest MMA promotion. And if/when he gets there, Mousasi isn’t interested in taking a slow ride to the top.
“I’ve got Mike Kyle now, and that’s the main focus, but if I go to UFC, I want to fight big names,” Mousasi said. “Anyone in the top 10 would be good.
“Seeing the UFC as big as it is and knowing it’s the biggest stage, people have always wondered if I could fight this guy and beat that guy, and this is an opportunity to prove myself against the best fighters. It’s a good challenge, and I like that. I think the timing is also perfect now for me to go to the UFC. I feel I’m more mature now and I’m training better. I’m more professional, so I think the timing is also correct.”
At an incredible 19-1-1 in his past 21 appearances and with an impressive career record full of knockouts and submissions, it’s hard to argue with Mousasi’s credentials. A few subpar appearances have soured some pundits on his potential, but Mousasi believes Saturday night is his time to make a statement, and then it’s on to bigger challenges.
“I feel like if I use my whole potential, I could be a contender,” Mousasi said. “I could win the title. I believe in myself, and I’ve been training very hard. I know I can get the belt, and that’s motivating. Back then, I wasn’t in the UFC, and every fight was just another fight. There wasn’t any motivation to get better. A UFC title means a lot.”
“People can count me out, but I always believe in my ability to win a fight. You don’t need to win by points. I always believe one punch or one good submission can get the job done. In my fights, I always know I can win the fights, so I don’t worry about whether people think I would do well or not. I think maybe two or three wins, and I can get there. I’ve only lost one fight in my past 21 fights. I don’t know why I shouldn’t be a contender with a couple of good wins.”