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Jorge Gurgel: My Goal Is to Separate Evangelista's Head From His Shoulders

UFC veteran Jorge Gurgel headlines this Friday's Strikeforce Challengers event against unbeaten Billy Evangelista in Fresno, Calif.

Gurgel, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt with a total of 15 affiliated schools around the world, won his Strikeforce debut in June, though with his oft-criticized, stand-and-bang style. In this interview with FanHouse, Gurgel talks about his love for striking and the sacrifices he accepts to fight his style.

You just wrapped up your camp at Sityodtong? How was your camp with Mark DellaGrote and Marcus Davis?

It was awesome. It wasn't my first fight there, but it was the longest I've been away from home. I've been living in Boston for seven weeks straight, so it messes with somebody's mind. I live[d] in a basement. I have a little TV, and a little bed and a microwave and at the bathroom is like 20 yards from the room. Every time I have to take a [pee] in the middle of the night I have to wake up and walk across the front gym in the dark to get to the bathroom. I've been doing this, cooking my own food and walking to the grocery store. It's been tough for seven weeks but it's got me ready for the fight.

You must be really excited then to be home.

I'm happy. I cannot wait to see my house and my bed. I miss my bed.

How long has it been now that you've been training with Sityodtong?

Marcus Davis, a good friend of mine from the TUF show, he had me train together for the last five years, on and off. I go to Boston, he comes to Ohio. Mark DellaGrote has been my main coach now for two years, and he's definitely made a huge change in my fight career. I'm very gratefully and lucky to have made that move. And I keep improving every time I go to Boston. I'm not ever going to fight without him in my corner.

You won your last fight, but you were quick to point out that you have some work to do. What are some things you worked on in this camp?

He's a completely different opponent. Conor [Huen], he's a wrestler. I had no idea that he would try and stand up with me. I thought that was the dumbest thing he could have done, but he did that. I was expecting a shot the whole time to work on the ground, but he did not shoot one time. He stood up with me, so it threw my gameplan off for a bit, but it made it a lot more fun for me to fight.

I made a couple of mental mistakes on that fight. He was knocked out on his feet three times, really hurt and I wasn't able to see that. That's a fighter's mental mistake. I was so focused on listening to my cornerman that I didn't follow my mistakes in jumping on him to finish the fight.

You're often criticized for not taking the fight to the ground, so you must have been happy that he stood up and traded with you.

If I made a dollar, man, if anybody asks me "Why don't you use your jiu-jitsu?" ... It can be a 10-year-old kid in my gym to a 75-year-old man in a hair salon, the guy at the gas station, I'm always going to be asked the same question, "Why don't you use your jiu-jitsu?" And just, everything comes in due time. I have a lot of confidence in my gym. I have a lot of confidence in my standup skills, and I enjoy trading punches.

People have the misconception that I do this just to please promoters. It's nothing to do with that. I do it cause I enjoy it. I enjoy fighting standing, and I'm not the type of guy who will pursue the takedown. If the fight goes to the ground, I'm happy there, I'm comfortable there, I'm just not going to pursue the takedown all the time.

I'm sure my career is far from over, so in due time, everybody is going to see me work on the ground. So patience, grasshopper. Patience.

We might have to wait longer. Billy has a Muay Thai background and you're probably benefiting even more than usual with Dellagrote's expertise.

I'm going to his hometown to fight the no. 1 contender for the world Strikeforce lightweight belt in Billy Evangelista, who has an undefeated record. A victory over him, god-willing I win, puts me exactly in that spot of no. 1 contender for that title. And also, it'll be a very exciting fight. It's two guys who are going to go in there prepared in shape and ready to decapitate each other, at least that's my idea. My goal is to separate his head from his shoulders. I hope Billy comes in with the same attitude.

Going back to your stand up style. On the other hand, you have BJJ guys like Demian Maia who believes in finishing the fight with as little damage as possible. Are you concerned with the eventual wear-and-tear on your body if you continue fighting this aggressively?

Too late! (Laughs.) Too late. I have two fake knees, two elbow surgeries, broken jaw, broke my nose six times. I cannot count how many stitches I've had. Do you think I'm concerned with wear-and-tear, brother, seriously? C'mon. C'mon, you're asking the wrong guy. If there was a fight that I didn't finish the fight without a cut, without bleeding, without going to the hospital, I wouldn't even know what to do [with myself]. I'll be like, "Are you serious? Am I still getting paid?" I don't know what it's like. It's just how people are made, I think. I'm wired that way. I enjoy fighting that way.

I really don't think or don't mind the outcome or side effects of my fighting style, and if it ends up hurting me in the long run, I'll definitely pay for it in the future. I pay for it now with the little bit of injuries here and there. Injuries have kept me from great fight opportunities, main card fights, UFC opportunities. Like I said, it's a living and learning experience. I enjoy the way I fight, I have a huge fanbase following -- I have no idea why. I think it's also just because of the way I fight, and I don't plan on changing anytime soon.

Everybody that fights me knows that they are in for a fight, that I'm going to come throwing punches and kicks all the way for 15 minutes if that's what it takes. Guys are going to get hurt, and I can get hurt as well, the only difference is that I don't give a (expletive).

What about your trainers, family and friends? Are they supportive of your style?

They do not. I think my mom is about to get a pacemaker. (Laughs.) My family does not like it at all. It's very exciting and I always get compliments for my fights but my students, I do disappoint them quite a few times. My main concern is to not disappoint my team or my students.

I cut easy. I'm always trading punches and I go for broke, but that's my style. After 10 years of being in this sport, I think my family has learned to accept the way I am, the way I fight, and the way I approach the mixed martial arts game.

I'm not saying I not going to change. I'm not saying I don't plan on using my jiu-jitsu. I always work a lot of jiu-jitsu before my fights. Some times it just doesn't happen that way. But I will use it. I promise. Before my fight career is over, I will use my jiu-jitsu and I will take less damage. And maybe in this fight, you never know.

You described leaving the UFC as "heartbreaking," since you've won an incredible war and you're headlining a Showtime card, would you say you've settled in with Strikeforce now?

I'm very, very happy with Strikeforce. I'm grateful for the opportunity. It was an opportunity for me to have a rebirth, so to speak. Like I've said, I was never happy with my performance in the UFC. They cut me rightfully so, because with all due respect to the other fighters, I never thought I did lose a fight to a better fighter. I always lost a fight to myself. I just never performed to my expectations.

When the UFC cut me I think a broke a record. I was the guy who was unemployed for a record-breaking four minutes. Four minutes after the UFC cut me, Strikeforce got a hold of me and I've been happy ever since. It's a chance for me to display my skills.

And trust me, people say I took a step down, maybe from the biggest league in the world to the second, but I did not take a step down in competition. Look who Strikeforce has. It's a huge, huge growing organization. There's a huge fight roster that keeps growing bigger and bigger. So I never took a step down from competition. I'm very happy with Strikeforce. They treat me great. All my fights are televised. I have the opportunity to fight in the main event. God-willing I'll win the fight and that will put me in title contention.

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