Fernando Gonzalez Interview
On October 16th, Middleweight contender Fernando Gonzalez and Heavyweight champion Tony Lopez rendezvous at 205 pounds to square off for the vacant King of the Cage Light Heavyweight championship. We sat down with Gonzalez to discuss his impending fight and the path leading up to it.
VB: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us. I know this is eating into your rest and relaxation time. First, tell us about your background. How did you get involved with mixed martial arts?
FG: I grew up in Menifee. It’s between Riverside and Temecula. I started boxing when I was about five years old. When I was in high school, I was really interested in the UFC, hearing about Tito and all those guys. When I graduated, I was looking for something to help keep me out of trouble.
VB: Was yours a rough neighborhood?
FG: It wasn’t so much a rough neighborhood. But it was more that . . . when there’s not much to do, you get yourself into shit, you know what I mean? So this just kept me busy and not involved in all the other dumb shit.
I was lifting [weights] at a gym and one of the guys there was passing out flyers for a King of the Cage event. So I asked him about it. He said “I sponsor fighters . . . we got this studio where guys train.” So I went and checked it out and I got sponsored that day.
VB: What was the name of the studio?
FG: It was Canyon Lake Martial Arts, [run by] Steve and Joey Harriman. It was a karate studio, but they had a jiu-jitsu guy, Chris Brennan, who was also fighting at King of the Cage. Chris started teaching me and a few other guys. About a year and a half after training, I started fighting. I trained with Chris for about three years. From there I was training at the Fight Lab with Cory Cass. Then I started going over to [Team] Quest, and I’ve been training with them since.
VB: Who’s some of your regular training partners over there?
FG: My main training partners are Jesse Taylor, Thierry Sokoudjou, and Isaias Alvarado. Isaias is a really good kickboxer who will be coming out pretty soon. Obviously, we’ve got Dan [Henderson]; we’re around the same weight class. Vinicius Magalhaes, Dave Gardner, Brian Harper, he’s another King of the Cage fighter.
VB: Do you have a certain approach or philosophy behind your training?
FG: Train hard, you know? Beat yourself up in the gym so you don’t get beat up in the fight. That’s basically how we do it. I work a lot with Master Bob Chaney also. He’s my Muay Thai instructor, and he pushes me really hard. Obviously training with Quest . . . some of the toughest fighters in the world are in our gym. I got the best of both worlds on my stand up and my ground.
VB: You’ve got a very even balance of wins, between knockouts, submissions, and decisions. Do you lean towards one side, as a striker or a ground guy, or a bit of both?
FG: I’m more all-around. When I first started training with Chris, I worked almost a year and a half of nothing but ground. I already had the boxing down. I think that’s what threw people off. Because I could strike and they think they’d beat me on the ground and then I’d be submitting them or ground and pound . . . but I’m real comfortable with both positions.
VB: What do you know about your opponent Tony Lopez? Have you studied tape on him? What do you think will be the toughest part of fighting him?
FG: I didn’t really study too much tape on the guy, but I cornered against him when he fought John Brock. [Tony’s] real durable; I think, the best thing he’s got going for him is that he’s so damn tough and he’s got a good chin.
VB: Do you think that that’s going to be the toughest part of the fight for you?
FG: Yes and no . . . I’m actually training my butt off really hard for this fight. Honestly, I’m expecting a war with this guy. I’m not gonna say I’m knocking him out or submitting him. I hope that happens, but I really trained for the five rounds. I have a pretty good idea of how he fights and my game plan is to just go out there and see what he gives me, really.
VB: You normally fight at 185 lbs. What are your thoughts on fighting up in weight?
FG: I’ve fought at 205 pounds. Like I said, I go with Thierry Sokoudjou and Krzysztof [Soszynski]. . Strength and weight-wise, I’m comfortable. My best fight was at 205, when I fought Alex Stiebling, and I beat him at that weight, so I don’t think it’s going to make much difference.
VB: After your fight with Lopez, who would you like to square off against next? Would you want to come down to 185, or stay there and defend?
FG: I wouldn’t mind defending once or twice, but I’m an 85’er, really. And I’m still the #1 contender for that weight class, and I feel that I need to get that one too. So hopefully I’ll get this one, then drop down and fight for the [185 pound title] as well. I think that would be cool. It’d keep me busy, defending both.
VB: You took some time off from your last fight in April. What have you been up to during that time?
FG: I work at Pro-Am Kickboxing, where I instruct boxing and kickboxing. I’d like to fight more frequently, honestly. But if I don’t have a fight, I’m still training my butt off and trying to get better.
Sometimes it’s good to have time in between because when you’re getting ready for a fight really you’re not going to learn much more. Because you’re preparing for the fight, like conditioning, and you’re really not going to learn anything else that’s going to help you to fight. So I like to have a little off time so I can work some new techniques into my game and grow as a fighter.
VB: Who are some of your sponsors?
FG: I’ve got Combat Clothing, Skin [Industries], Dr. Toy Rancho Chiropractics in Temecula, Tribal Gear out of San Diego. . . I’ve got Siggy’s. They’re one of my favorites. It’s a restaurant and they’ve got a whole diet section, so I don’t have to buy food and stuff. I got a good group of guys helping me out right now. And Pro-Am has its own clothing line, Sanctioned Violence.
VB: What has been your best and worst memory in your MMA career so far?
FG: My best memory is probably when I beat Alex [Stiebling]. I fought him in WEC, and I think that was my best moment because when I was little I grew up watching boxing and watching Jimmy Lennon, Jr. announce all these fights, and he announced my fight, so I was pretty stoked. I got to take pictures of him and stuff.
I’d say my worst moment was when I fought Jay Martinez. I went to fight him in Mexico City and I didn’t know there was elevation. We’re out there fighting and after the first round I wanted to give up, but I was winning so I was like “I can’t do that.” I ended up gassing out in the second and lost, but it was a good fight. My hat’s off to [Jay]. I prepared for the fight; I just didn’t prepare for the elevation. That’s the one that pisses me off the most.
VB: Going into this week before your fight, do you have any last thoughts?
FG: Not really. I’m just keeping my head clear. I’m just chilling out and relaxing before my fight. Going through my routine like it’s just another fight. It is for a title, but I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself. I’m just going to go out there and perform like I normally do and . . . I think I’ll beat him and I’ll come out victorious.