Gegard Mousasi at StrikeforceSince making his MMA debut almost a decade ago, Iranian born stand-up wizard Gegard Mousasi is one of the more decorated fighters to never step foot in the vaunted Octagon of the UFC.

Having cut his teeth in the Japanese organizations of PRIDE FC and DREAM in the early part of the current millennium, Mousasi finally made his stateside debut for the now-defunct Strikeforce promotion in 2009. He scored a first-round TKO victory over former UFC title challenger Renato “Babalu” Sobral, capturing the company’s light heavyweight championship.

This Saturday, “The Dreamcatcher” makes his long awaited promotional debut at UFC on Fuel TV 9 in Stockholm.  Mousasi was originally slated to meet light heavyweight powerhouse and hometown Swede Alexander Gustafsson in the night‘s main event, but “The Mauler“ was forced to pull out due to a cut suffered in training. Gustafsson has been replaced by countryman and sparring partner Ilir Latifi.

Although Latifi doesn’t present the same threat as Gustaffson, this fight still marks the UFC debut of one of the most accomplished fighters to never fight for the company, and for Mousasi, the pressure is mounting.

“There’s some pressure because this is the first fight (in the UFC). You want to do well. It’s the biggest organization,“ Mousasi told MMAweekly.com. “It’s a big opportunity for me. Sometimes you get opportunities and you just have to take them, and that’s what I’m going to do.”

Despite a stellar career overseas, the opportunity the UFC represents for Mousasi is undeniable.  With a rabid worldwide fan base and ample opportunities to fight, Mousasi now finds himself at the center of the MMA universe. He even admits to, on occasion, thinking about what his early career might have been like if he had joined the world’s premiere fighting organization a bit sooner.

“Sometimes I wonder if I had spent my career in the UFC a lot earlier, then maybe I would have went a lot further with everything,“ he stated. “But I started my career in Japan, and I have different roots.

“I could’ve reached a lot more if I would have done things correctly in the past, but so far I cannot complain. I have a good record, but maybe if I did things better in the past, I’d be further in my class, higher in my career.”

Prior to fighting in the UFC, Mousasi amassed an impressive record of 33-3-2, while picking and choosing how much he would put into any given training camp.  Outside of the UFC, motivation became a daily struggle as he battled a lack of organizational consistency and job security.

“Every fight that I had, nothing really actually changed in my life. I’m not getting richer or poorer; it’s the same thing,” he commented.

“With the UFC, I feel like there’s big opportunities. It kind of excites me to be where these other guys are, at the top of the division. These things motivate me, now. Maybe in the past I lacked in that because of… some frustrations. I feel like now I’m getting the opportunity to make something out of it.

“I’m more serious. I have coaches in all areas now. In the past I would just train myself. So, I’m taking things more serious. I’m more professional. I train right; that’s what I feel I haven’t done in the past. And mentally I think I’ve grown. I’m more mature.”

During his time overseas, Mousasi was the victim of unwavering critique and was accused of possessing a “padded” record filled with sub-par opponents; something he is quick to discuss, and dismiss.

“This is a popularity contest I think. I think the guys who are promoted well get more credit,” said the 27-year-old.

“When I fought some guys, they were at the top and now they’re going down. This is fighting; even an opponent who is not so good can defeat you. I’ve fought at light heavyweight, middleweight, heavyweight. I fought Mark Hunt, who everyone said wasn’t that good and now he’s possibly fighting for the heavyweight title. I fought Jacare. He became the Strikeforce champion. I fought Melvin Manhoef; maybe he’s not the best, but he’s a guy who can beat anyone. Even if you put him against the number one guy, he has a big chance of winning because of the way he fights. So to the people who don’t think I’ve fought top competition, they probably don’t know the sport that well.”

If there is any knock on the well-rounded Dutch transplant, it’s his inability to promote a fight. So when Mousasi speaks about the fight game being a “popularity contest,” he speaks from experience.

In an era where entertainment has become paramount to a fighter’s career arc, Mousasi acknowledges that he might not be the slickest of tongues, but hopefully his fighting speaks for itself.

“I’m just being myself,” he said. “It’s entertainment and people like to be entertained. So, it makes sense to talk more. But as long as you fight well, and everything goes well, you don’t need to worry.”

Currently riding a five-fight winning streak, Mousasi is one of the hottest prospects in MMA – ability to inspire trash talk or not – in one of the most talent-rich divisions the sport has to offer. Now, with his UFC debut just days away, Mousasi sees nothing but opportunity on the road ahead.

“I know for sure I can fight any of these guys and beat them,” he declared. “Now it’s a matter of fighting them. I can talk all I want, but now I have to go out and perform against these top names.

“I feel like I belong at the top, for sure.”

view original article >>

Report here if this news is invalid.

Related News

UFC Headliner Valentina Shevchenko Uninjured After Being Caught in Gun Battle

  • 27 days ago
  • 52 views

Valentina Shevchenko is still on track for her bout opposite Holly Holm despite recently being caught in the crossfire a shootout that injured her coach. read news >>

Dana White Talks About Problems in Conor McGregor, Nate Diaz Negotiations

  • 25 days ago
  • 530 views

UFC President Dana White has had some problems negotiating recently with two of the UFC's biggest fighters. UFC featherweight champion Conor McGregor, perhaps the most famous fighter in MMA today, se read news >>

VIDEO: Urijah Faber Talks Possible Retirement After Second Loss to Dominick Cruz

  • 22 days ago
  • 12 views

Following his second loss to UFC champion Dominick Cruz, Urijah Faber addressed the possibility that retirement could be on the horizon for him. read news >>

Robbie Lawler Talks Conor McGregor Before UFC 201 Title Fight vs. Tyron Woodley

  • 19 days ago
  • 108 views

UFC welterweight champion Robbie Lawler said he "wasn't too worried" about his previously rumored Conor McGregor fight and would have taken the featherweight's soul if they went head-to-head. "His so read news >>

TBT — ‘Kimbo Slice’ Works Out and Talks to the Media Before Most Watched Fight in MMA History

  • 18 days ago
  • 17 views

On May 31, 2008, 7.281 million people tuned into CBS to watch Kevin "Kimbo Slice" Ferguson take on James Thompson in the main event of Elite XC: Primetime. read news >>

UFC 200 Video: Mark Hunt Talks about His Fight Against ‘Juiced to the Gills’ Brock Lesnar

  • 14 days ago
  • 752 views

Heavyweight contender Mark Hunt talks about his upcoming fight against Brock Lesnar at UFC 200, and believes Lesnar is 'juiced to the gills.' read news >>

Chael Sonnen Beyond the Fight: Remembering Muhammad Ali

  • 14 days ago
  • 18 views

Chael Sonnen talks about the legacy of boxing legend Muhammad Ali during this episode of Beyond the Fight. read news >>

The Beaten Path: Middleweight Prospect Phil Hawes Makes a Powerful Sales Pitch

  • 14 days ago
  • 11 views

Aluminum siding salesmen, take note. This is how you close a deal. It takes guts to be an MMA fighter. Knocking on the door of the sport’s most high-profile gym, essentially as a stranger, with nothi read news >>

Michael Bisping Talks Dan Henderson, Georges St-Pierre Before UFC Title Defense

  • 11 days ago
  • 94 views

Michael Bisping is eyeing Dan Henderson and Georges St-Pierre as potential opponents after winning the UFC Middleweight championship at UFC 199, and he sounded off on the possible challengers Friday. read news >>

Derek Brunson Out; Thiago Santos Now Faces Gegard Mousasi at UFC 200

  • 7 days ago
  • 13 views

An injury has forced Derek Brunson out of his UFC 200 bout against Gegard Mousasi. Thiago Santos will step in as a replacement and take on the No. 8 ranked middleweight on July 9. read news >>