Exclusive Gabriel Napao interview
Black belt talks Cro Cop, evolution
World Jiu-Jitsu champion Gabriel "Napao" Gonzaga got a perfect BJJ win over Carmelo Marrero at UFC 66, held December 30. GRACIEMAG.com approached him to discuss his UFC maturity, Cro Cop's arrival, and to clear a rumor that's been going on.
What did you think of your last fight? Did your opponent make it easy on you?
I found it very good, everything worked out. I did a strong preparation and a very good planning and everything went as we planned. Carmelo Marrero is a very tough guy - he had six fight with no defeat, and his latest win was against one of the strongest men in the promotion. I don't think he made it easy, but rather I was better than him that night.
Did he threaten you at any moment?
No, as soon as it started I controlled the center and connected a jab and a cross which he felt and then grabbed my waist. We fell in a position that I've been training a lot because my team studied his game thoroughly and he always does it. Then all it took was to take him down, fall on top and let my Jiu-Jitsu flow on him and wait for the right time to spring.
It was another beatutiful exhibition of your BJJ skills. Would you say it was pure Jiu-Jitsu, or did you resort to other martial arts?
Today you have to train everything in MMA. That's why I came to the U.S. to train with top professionals. Boxing, wrestling, muay thai and Jiu-Jitsu - that combination brought about that which you saw. But of course it gets a lot easier if I get to take it to the ground, that's my home.
Do you already notice changes in your game now that you've got some UFC experience? What did you evolve the most at?
My game has been evolving gradually. Definitely after three wins at the event I'm feeling more comfortable. I believe I did a very strong work with [Jorge Patino] Macaco's guys, Chute Boxe and my boxing coach "Cebola" before coming to the U.S., and now I'm working on my wrestling and physical condition. Our training center BJJ Link has a very strong structure now, and I thank my team for the evolution.
Do you think Mirko Cro Cop's arrival at the UFC will provoke big changes in your category? Does anything change to you?
Certainly Cro Cop is the man to beat now, but the UFC has great names in the category and we'll see what happens. His arrival is good for everybody. To me nothing changes. I'll keep my training as usual and with the same goal to someday fight for the heavyweight belt.
Did you watch Pe de Pano's fight? Did you think Arlovski's illegal kick made a big difference?
I saw it and found it good - Marcio made a good strategy and went into the half-guard game he likes, almost accomplished a heel hook and then a leg lock, but then Andrei threw a good strike and things got ugly. Pe de Pano has all it takes to bounce off this loss.
What about facing Tim Sylvia at your next bout? Will it be a title shot?
Actually I got no proposal yet. It's all internet rumors for now.