Gonzaga Looks Back to Move Forward

"I trained hard and I won't underestimate Schaub, I'll only try to put my whole potential to work on the day of the fight, and if God wants it, I'll leave with a win."
The ritual was the same for former UFC heavyweight challenger Gabriel 'Napao' Gonzaga, almost like a movie that he’s watched more than once.

Losing four times inside the Octagon, “Napao” - who faces TUF 10 runner-up Brendan Schaub in Anaheim on Saturday - started assuming that each time he collected a negative result in UFC, it was his own fault, followed by the ability of his foes to capitalize on his error. The Brazilian doesn't take anything away from any of guys (Randy Couture, Fabricio Werdum, Shane Carwin and Junior 'Cigano' dos Santos) who defeated him, but he acknowledged his mistakes and tried to focus on them in order to not repeat them the next time.         

But following his most recent loss to dos Santos in March, Gonzaga has opted to replay a different “film” from his career, one that takes him back to the pace that helped garner him his last victory, against Chris Tuchscherer back in August of 2009.
"I'm working at Xtreme Couture for this fight (against Schaub)," he said. "The idea is always to evolve, and here in Las Vegas the training is good. I also prepared in the TapouT Gym, but most of the time I was with Couture." 
One of the things that media and fans always questioned when it came to Gonzaga was that even though he had an excellent coach in Marco Alvan, the lack of top sparring wasn't reproducing the toughness of a real fight. He agrees, but adds that the training camps for two of his best UFC performances took place in Ludlow, Massachusetts. 
"Training in Vegas I'll bring a diversified game plan and better timing." Gonzaga said. "I agree that Team Link doesn't have the same amount of experienced teammates, but I trained there for the Mirko Cro Cop fights and Couture fights - I got great motivation training there and that counts too."       

His preparation in Vegas wasn't something that was widely covered in the media, but then a picture that was taken at Xtreme Couture of Gonzaga, along with other UFC fighters, emerged on Twitter. That was a signal that things started to change for Gonzaga in order to avoid future failure.    
"I simply committed a mistake, and this is not an excuse, because if I made them and my opponent didn't take advantage, the fights would have continued. That was like Cro Cop, who made an error of defending my leg kick instead of the high one I landed to his head. These things happen. So I want to evolve, and to fix what isn't working properly. The defeats are bad and learning from them isn't for everyone."     
And those who have been following Gonzaga on Twitter or as his friend on Facebook, don’t notice just pictures and news on his fighting career. The big man with knockout power and great submissions is a bit addicted to the new technology, and with just a click here or there, and you'll find a proud and affectionate father and funny man behind that serious face inside the Octagon. But are we peering too much inside his personal life? No, this is just Gonzaga's way of being closer to fans while working on his hobby as well.   

"I'm trying to show a little more of my personality," he says. "Everybody interested in my job is welcomed; I think it's very important."     

And while posting about his job and personal life, Gonzaga has already realized what attracts viewers - the uncommon. 
"The other day I did something crazy, I filmed me screaming, running and jumping against the wall. That's on Youtube with the title 'Gonzaga getting crazy on video' at my own channel, Gonzagabjj. That thing got more than 38000 hits, while BJJ positions barely reach 500 - that was funny (laughs)."      
However, while Gonzaga is open with his fans on the internet, his surfing has limits, and it doesn't cross the line into internet forums. Staying away from the buzz of his last defeat, the 31-year old Rio de Janeiro native doesn't like much of what is written, but he respects the fans' opinions.  
"I don't visit the forums often; after my fights some friends comment and I take a look, but it's hard to read people talking without knowing things. But for the fans it's good because they are free to post their ideas, this is the world's evolution."  

Putting the virtual world away for a while as he awaits this weekend’s fight, Gonzaga reminds much more of his career to take Schaub. Since his start from 2005 until his most recent fight in March, he showed skills on the feet and on the ground, shocked the world, fought for a title, yet some people believed his feats were mere luck. So Gonzaga faces a crucial test against 'The Hybrid', and the man with his back against the wall looks to his past to gain strength and make a statement about just who he is. 

"People ask what would have happened if this or that didn't happen in my career, and I answer that if I didn't beat Cro Cop, perhaps I wouldn’t be fighting anymore. So I don't think about what will happen after the fight, my thoughts are in this fight," he said. "I trained hard and I won't underestimate Schaub, I'll only try to put my whole potential to work on the day of the fight, and if God wants it, I'll leave with a win. I believe he'll come with determination, because he asked to face more renowned fighters after his last fight, but I'll be prepared for what he'll bring." 


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