One-time UFC title challenger Gabriel Gonzaga had his hand raised after a fight for the first time in almost two years, though it wasn’t in an MMA contest.
Gonzaga made a successful professional boxing debut at a show in Worcester, Mass., on Saturday, winning a four-round majority decision over Alejandro Esquilin Santiago. It was the 38-year-old’s first victory since defeating Konstantin Erokhin at The Ultimate Fighter 22 Finale on Dec. 11, 2015, which was part of a 1-4 stretch that closed out his time inside the Octagon.
For one night, Gonzaga could put his MMA struggles behind him.
According to a press release from Rivera Promotions Entertainment, Gonzaga was the aggressor early on, with Santiago opening up and exchanging with him as the bout progressed. Neither fighter scored a knockdown, but Gonzaga did enough to take the fight on the scorecards.
“I thought I’d be more relaxed in the ring like I had been in the gym,” Gonzaga said in the release. “I did my best and came away with a victory. I was too safe in the third round. My punches were much stronger and a lot of his punches I blocked with my gloves. This was really great tonight!”
Over a 13-year MMA career, Gonzaga compiled a 17-11 record including a 12-10 mark with the UFC. He has not competed in MMA since April 2016 and it is not known if he plans to do so again, given that he has mentioned wanting a significant payday to continue in that sport.