Gegard Mousasi (41-6-2) is looking down the barrel of the biggest fight of his career. At UFC 210 (April 8), he’ll find himself standing on the opposite side of the Octagon from former middleweight champion Chris Weidman (13-2), a man eager to release two straight losses’ worth of pent up frustration.
Mousasi enters Saturday on a four-fight winning streak and appears to be enjoying this part of his career. That’s a marked change from what we saw in his younger days, when the MMA prodigy always looked like he would rather be doing something else. Even if you didn’t witness it for yourself, you know the type of person I’m talking about, like the little Mozart down the street who only plays the piano because his parents make him.
Maybe being so talented and winning multiple titles at a young age can affect you in ways I’ll never understand. But in Mousasi’s case, fighting was all he knew and nothing more than a job.
I never enjoyed fighting. I enjoy it more now than I did back then. Back then I was just trying to secure my future. But my future is secure now and I don’t need to fight but it’s all about the accomplishments and the legacy that I can have. So, it’s a different mentality I have going into this fight and different from when I was younger.
For a guy who never really enjoyed the sport, he sure racked up a lot of wins from 2003 until he made his UFC debut in 2013. That’s when maybe the pressure of being touted as the next big thing or “champion in waiting” might have started to play with his head. However, for Mousasi, he believes maturity and a simple change of mindset have done wonders for his career.
“I think it’s been mental, experience and confidence. I’m 31 and that’s when you’re psychically the strongest. I have more experience now than when I was younger and I was never that confident. Two years ago I wasn’t confident that I could beat those top guys but now I believe I can easily beat them,” said Mousasi.
On Saturday, the “Dreamcatcher” will bring this new-found confidence into a matchup with a desperate opponent.
Weidman’s current losing skid makes him extra dangerous and there is no doubt the former champ will be relying on his bread and butter, which means Mousasi can expect to see a lot of takedown attempts from the former All-American wrestler.
“I am training with good wrestlers. Sometimes I’m sparring with big guys, heavyweights, strong guys with wrestling and judo backgrounds. If it’s a wrestling fight he will win no doubt, but this is MMA and they don’t take me down in an MMA fight. He’s not gonna take me down… In sparring, I have been very sharp and I know that I can take him down and so he should be worried about his own takedown defense. I’m not worried about mine.”
A victory over Weidman should put Mousasi in the title-contender conversation, but in the UFC’s crowded middleweight division, the old “get in line” adage seems applicable. Yoel Romero is the current number one contender and you can put “Jacare” Souza in that picture, too. Currently, the middleweight belt is being held hostage by a potential money fight between current champ Michael Bisping and Georges St-Pierre, something that doesn’t sit well with the Dutch-Armenian, who’s frustrated that a win on Saturday may not bring him any closer to what he deserves.
“I can’t sit and wait. Yoel Romero is next and they’re making the GSP fight so they’ll probably give me another fight after. But that’s the problem is that I have to put everything on the line again to get a title shot. Some people get title shots like it’s a gift, some people have to take the longer and more difficult road… Let them make a different money fight. Let GSP fight Anderson Silva. Why should he fight for a belt? He hasn’t fought in the middleweight division ever. He hasn’t fought for four years so let him fight someone else.”
The frustrated Mousasi continued, “Jon Jones went through a very difficult time but he beat all the number one contenders. Now Michael Bisping says he defended his belt two times. Well, who did you defend it against? It’s easy to say I defended my belt. Maybe if he fights the number one contender he’s going to lose right away. I don’t know, I guess it’s just business… I am focused on this fight. But if I win and they want to give me a light-heavyweight title fight, I’m open to that.”
Hey, Daniel Cormier, you might want to pay attention.
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