(Gunderson looks for a guillotine against Wagnney Fabiano in an IFL bout back in 2007.)
There is one upside to having an event so plagued with injuries and illnesses that it barely limps its way onto pay-per-view. With so many holes opening up in the fight card, that means some UFC first-timers are bound to turn someone else’s misfortune into their own big break. One such Octagon newcomer at UFC 108 will be IFL vet John Gunderson. He’ll be taking on Rafaello Oliveira, who was supposed to fight Sean Sherk, who got moved up to face Jim Miller when Tyson Griffin pulled out. That’s the kind of event this has been, and that’s the convoluted chain of events that led to Gunderson getting his shot in the UFC just a little over two weeks from now.
"I actually found out last night," said Gunderson. "[Evan] Dunham saw it online and he told me about it. After practice I checked my cell phone and sure enough there were a bunch of texts from my manager about it."
"We had been talking about it for a while, trying to get me on a card in March or April. But we told Joe Silva, if anybody gets hurt, I’m ready. I’ve been training with Evan Dunham. I’m in shape. I had a fight lined up for January 30, so I’m ready to go. …I knew it would happen eventually. With as many fights as the UFC is doing, I knew there’d be an opening sooner or later."
Gunderson is coming off a busy 2009 that saw him fight six times, winning all but one of them. The frantic pace was all part of a calculated effort to get the UFC’s attention, Gunderson said, while also ensuring that he’d be ready if and when they did call.
"It was all to get in the UFC. I just knew that somebody would get hurt, something would open up. With that many fights, and with the nature of this sport, I knew it would happen. Guys get hurt training all the time. It happens."
Starting today, Gunderson is preparing for "Tractor" Oliveira, who he watched in a losing effort against Nik Lentz at UFC 103, but who he also remembers as a tough guy who came to the UFC highly touted by other notable fighters (note: Oliveira did beat Wigman Big Big — twice).
As for whether the Octagon jitters will get to him, Gunderson says his experience and wealth of high-level training partners will help him make a smooth transition to the UFC.
"I’ve had so many fights, and I train with so many good guys right now. I’m at Xtreme Couture and TapouT, going back and forth. I don’t think it’s going to happen. You know, there’s showing up, and then there’s showing up and performing. I’m not just going there to show up."