Wilson Gouveia’s rise through the UFC middleweight ranks was slowed last May when Octagon newcomer Goran Reljic staged a come-from-behind victory via second-round TKO. For Gouveia the loss was the direct result of a very specific mistake on his part, and one he’s vowed to learn from but never to repeat as he heads into his UFC 95 bout with Nate Marquardt.
CagePotato.com: Thanks for talking with me, Wilson. How is your preparation coming for the fight with Nate Marquardt?
The training has been very intense. I’m taking this fight very seriously. I think it’s going to be the most important fight of my career so far. Right now I feel very good. I’m in great condition, no injuries, just ready to go.
Are you doing anything specifically to prepare for him?
Not really, to tell the truth. In all my fights I try to be prepared for everything. With Nate it’s no different. He’s a pretty well-rounded fighter. He’s good at everything. I have to try and be prepared for the worst-case scenario. He’s a good wrestler. He’s got better takedowns than me. I’ve been training a lot of jiu-jitsu off my back, a lot of stand-up.
I think he’s good in everything, but I don’t think he’s great in anything. I think his jiu-jitsu is good, but it’s not amazing. His wrestling, I think, is his greatest strength. But even with that, I don’t think he’s the best wrestler in the UFC. His striking is good, but if you watch his last fight with [Martin] Kampmann, he spent like ten or more punches to put him away. I really don’t need ten punches to put someone away. I just need one.
You were on a good roll in the UFC until your loss to Goran Reljic. What do you think went wrong for you in that fight?
What happened in that fight, that not many people know because it happened behind the scenes, was an argument between my coaches and his agent. I made a huge mistake after that and treated that fight like a personal problem. And I have no problem whatsoever with any fighter. But I tried to punish the guy and put him away. When I was on the top throwing punches I gave everything that I had. So when we both stood up again I was tired. I tried to rest for a second and that’s when he threw a hook or something that caught me. When you use those small gloves, anything can hurt you.
So it became a personal thing for you because of this argument between your coaches and his agent?
Yeah, what happened was, this was Goran’s first fight in the UFC. And don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against the guy, and after the fight we talked and everything was okay. But I think because it was his first fight in the UFC I think he was trying to convince himself that he belonged here, that he deserved to be in the UFC, and at the weigh-ins he gave me a little headbutt. I was laughing, you know, whatever.
But on the way out I guess he said something to my coach and my coach said something back to him and then his agent got in the middle and they were all arguing. And I think there were a lot of feelings involved suddenly.
I made the mistake of taking those feelings and making them mine. In the fight, I took it too personal. That will never happen again. I can’t make that mistake twice. I have kids to feed and bills to pay. I can’t fight with my emotions ever again. I have to fight with my brain, and now I think I’m a more adult fighter now for that.
You’ve been in this sport for a long time. Do you think those kinds of experiences that you’ve acquired over the years, the ones that made you a more mature fighter, will make the difference for you moving forward?
Everything counts. Experience counts. People have no idea how big the pressure is to fight in the UFC. All the attention, the people screaming. Sometimes you are your biggest enemy. You keep playing in your mind all the worst possibilities. What I try to do is go into a fight and be very calm and relaxed, try to be smart. Sometimes when you try to use too much of your heart you gas out. When you use your head, people might think that you’re losing but at any time you can pull off a submission.
This fight could be a big one in determining the middleweight standings. Do you see yourself as the UFC middleweight champ some day soon?
I think if you ask this question to any fighter, I think the ultimate goal for all of us is to be the champ. When you’re the champ, that’s a real accomplishment. You can look back on it and say, ‘I was the champ in my day.’ That’s what I want. That’s why I’m doing this.
I know myself and the people who know me know that I am capable of it. I just have to do it. No one can do it for me. No matter how talented I am, I have to work my ass off to make it happen. Because I didn’t come to the UFC to be just another guy. I came to be the champ. The day I realize that I can’t do it, that I’m not talented enough or smart enough, that will be the day I hang up my gloves. But now I believe I can do it.
What do you think is the hardest part about being a pro fighter in the UFC?
Man, that’s a good question, because I think people have no idea how tough it is. I have a school and have students, maybe thirty or forty percent of them, whose dream it is to be a UFC fighter. And I keep telling them, you guys have no idea how tough it is, not only physically but mentally, to get ready for a fight.
I think MMA is the most selfish sport ever. It takes everything. In this sport you’ve got to be good in all the things. Good striking, good wrestling, good jiu-jitsu, great condition, a good mind. At this level, you have to have them all.
And sometimes when you train hard you get injuries, little injuries, but you know you will have to go out there with these injuries and fight in front of thousands of people, plus all the people watching on TV. Myself, I don’t do anything else but this. I have a school, but it’s not making enough money right now. So my only source of income is fighting, and I have to do good at it to support my family.
How do you stay motivated when you’re getting injured in training and know you’ll have to go out there and fight hurt anyway?
Well, when you have a goal there will always be things that make it hard. But you have to ask yourself how bad you want this. I want this so bad. No matter what happens, I’m going to keep trying. I think every fighter has to feel that way. I want to be the champ so bad, if you throw a baseball bat in that Octagon for my opponent to use and beat me with, I’m going to keep fighting and try to win the fight. Always I’m going to try, because I really believe in myself.