(Photo courtesy of MMA Junkie)
By Elias Cepeda for CagePotato
After an impressive seven-year career competing around the Northwest and as a member of the Nevada Lions in the IFL, John Gunderson (22-7) finally got his ticket to the big show when we was invited to fight Rafaello Oliveira as a late replacement at UFC 108. Though he lost that match by decision, his performance was enough to earn him a second shot — and that’s when things got tricky. A scheduled meeting with Paul Taylor fell apart when Taylor withdrew from the match not once but twice. Luckily, Canadian newcomer Mark Holst has agreed to replace Taylor at the TUF 11 Finale on June 19th. Gunderson took some time to update us on his upcoming redemption-match, and his quest to find success in the UFC while juggling his other two jobs — personal trainer and soccer dad.
CAGEPOTATO.COM: After taking your first UFC fight on short notice you had a full camp and were set to fight Paul Taylor in April at UFC 112 but then the bout didn’t happen because he pulled out. What happened there?
JOHN GUNDERSON: I got the fight with Paul Taylor in Abu Dhabi and flew all the way out there, weighed in and apparently that night Taylor started having problems. He had migraines and got real sick and wasn’t able to compete. The UFC turned around right away and put me on the finale card against Taylor again. But about three or four weeks ago I found out that Paul Taylor pulled out again and now I’m fighting Mark Holst. They didn’t tell me why and I didn’t even ask.
Let’s back up for a second and talk about what it was like to have gone through an entire camp, then go all the way to Abu Dhabi and have your opponent not compete. When did you find out and how disruptive was it?
Oh yeah, I’ve never gone through anything like that. The day of the fight we actually got on the bus to take us from the hotel to the event center which was literally five minutes away. So I was an hour, hour and a half out from fighting and that’s when they told us. You can imagine, go all the way out to Abu Dhabi after losing my first UFC fight. In the back of your head you are thinking that if you don’t win this one, that’s it. So leaving the hotel, I was ready. I felt like it was taken from me but the UFC gave me another opportunity right away so…
Wait, you were on the bus and that’s when you found out? Did you have a period of denial at first, like did you think there was still some chance that you would get to fight?