Eddie Gordon's last Octagon memory is also one he'd like to forget. Fresh off a victorious coronation as TUF 19 champion, Gordon strolled into Las Vegas this past December and drowned Josh Samman for eight solid minutes under a buffet of takedowns and punches. It was a perfect start to Gordon's second UFC fight, but the good vibes would be short-lived.
By the match's end, Samman was euphoric while Gordon was unconscious, floored by a head kick that no one in the Mandalay Bay Events Center saw coming, least of all the Longo-Serra product laying comatose on the mat. Samman's dramatic comeback wound up topping a slew of media outlets' Knockout of the Year lists, including MMAFighting.com's own, while Gordon was forced to relive the moment ad infinitum, leading to more than a few sleepless nights in the time between UFC 181 and this Saturday's return bout against Chris Dempsey at UFC on FOX 15.
"You know what, man, I've very competitive, and that bothered me for a while," Gordon admitted on an in-studio appearance on Monday's episode of The MMA Hour. "I think I just got over it probably five minutes ago, getting off the train. But realistically, I'm fortunate enough to have the best people around me.
"Matt (Serra) went over and he talked to me about some things. Ray (Longo) spoke to me. And I can't even talk about how much it helped having Al Iaquinta on my team, being able to talk me through that whole situation, because you get down on yourself, you're pissed off, you're mad, but you've always got to look at the losses as a learning experience. Matt said it best. He's like, if I was getting my butt kicked the whole entire fight, we gotta start from ground zero and kind of fix everything. But that's why MMA is so exciting. At any given moment, your fate could change."
Gordon (7-2) will now look to get back on track this weekend against Dempsey, regaining some of the momentum he's lost since his successful run on TUF 19.
In retrospect, the season is remembered for being one of the most lackluster in recent TUF history, but Gordon made the most of his opportunity, defeating Matt Gabel, Hector Urbina, and Cathal Pendred in succession to land a spot in the finale, then knocking out the middleweight bracket's darling, Dhiego Lima, with a furious first-round assault.
The win validated Gordon's decision to finally break the chains that held the 31-year-old to his day job as a banker. Now, even after experiencing the fight game's unforgiving up-and-down cruelty, Gordon isn't willing to look back.
"I was in corporate America. I did the suit and tie. Not no more, now I'm done. That's it," Gordon said. "I'm focused and full-time on (fighting). Some of my friends think I'm crazy because I have a Series 7 license, I graduated from a prestigious university with a double major, and they're like, ‘Why are you getting into this Octagon?'
"Wearing this shirt and tie everyday, going into the city, working for the bank -- it was cool and all, but I just felt like I was missing something. Like, I always wanted to compete. I had these weird dreams that I would be wrestling in some way, and it came to fruition. And realistically, I love what I do. Like, I hear guys complaining about pay all the time. Do I feel like we should get more money? Of course. But think about how many people pay to go to the gym, how many people pay to go lift weights. They're paying monthly for that. We get to do something we love, I get to spend time with my kids. That, to me, trumps everything."
Despite his age, Gordon still considers himself a baby in this whole mixed martial arts game. He grew up in the Long Island wrestling scene then attended university on a football scholarship. But it wasn't until a few years back, when he ran into an old high-school wrestling rival -- some dude named Chris Weidman -- that Gordon considered giving his athletic life one last chance.
"I literally came into the gym, probably, 290 pounds," Gordon said. "I was a football player. All I did was know football, went to college, played at Fordham University, and literally I'm seeing all these guys kick and all of this stuff, like, ‘This is weird. Who does that?' You see a street fight and nobody's kicking in a street fight.
"I was getting my ass handed to me at first, but I liked it. It was weird. I think Ray thought I was never going to come back to the gym, but I truly said that I love to compete, I'm getting the best guys in the world, and it's fun. The rest is history, man."
Gordon is now a regular sight in a gym full of trained killers. Stroll into Serra-Longo on any given afternoon and it's likely you'll see Gordon and Weidman renewing that old high-school rivalry inside the sparring cage, a late-comer going tit-for-tat with the UFC's middleweight champion. So the way Gordon figures it, after enduring a training camp full of beatings from the world's best, suddenly fight night doesn't seem so daunting.
"Being able to train with Chris (Weidman) everyday, I'm getting the best guy in the world. So there's no ifs, ands, buts about it," Gordon said. "If anybody knows Chris, he doesn't take it easy on anybody. Like, when you're in the cage with him, you know you're getting his best every time. Chris goes 110-percent. That's what he knows. And learning from that, that's half the battle. Going out there and giving it your all, not even caring about result, just going out there and trying to exhaust yourself, give your best effort every single time, and I feel like now I'm just so much more comfortable and that's why I'm so excited.
"Everyday I'm getting better," Gordon added. "Like I said, if somebody wants to fight me, they better fight me soon. Because in the next few fights, I'm going to be pretty hard to beat. I'm going to make a statement this weekend."