UFC heavyweight Gabriel “Napao” Gonzaga is set to face fellow Brazilian Junior “Cigano” Dos Santos at UFC on Versus: Vera vs. Jones. The event, scheduled for Sunday, March 21st, takes place at Odeum Colorado in Broomfield, Colorado and marks the debut of the UFC on VERSUS. It is also the first time that a live UFC event will air on a national sports cable network.
With a 3-3 record over his last 6 fights, Gonzaga is looking to return to the upper echelon of the division and get on track for another title shot. Unfortunately, Dos Santos stands in his way.
Dos Santos, a 25-year-old Brazilian, has been unstoppable, finishing his last 5 opponents. He has amassed a perfect 4-0 record in the Octagon, which includes victories over Fabricio Werdum, Stefan Struve, Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic and Gilbert Yvel.
Having handed the legendary Cro Cop his first UFC loss back at UFC 70 – Nations Collide, Gonzaga is not daunted by his upcoming challenger.
“I fought Mirko when he had… the Pride heavyweight belt and one win in the UFC, he was in his apex,” he explained in an interview with Fighters Only. “To fight a guy like Mirko at that time was always scary, but when I step in the Octagon I am not afraid to fight anybody, I am going to fight to win, even if the guy is Superman!”
Gonzaga is no stranger to the bright lights and considers his experience an advantage.
“I fought Randy [Couture] for the heavyweight championship belt, I have been there a few times… [Dos Santos] is dangerous and the UFC is making this fight for a reason. I am going to give the fight that he deserves, a great fight!”
Not short on confidence, Gonzaga believes his key to victory will rest in his preparation.
“I am always going to be prepared to fight anyone and Junior is in my way to get back to title contention. I think I am very mature at this moment and I am in the top of my game. I will be very well prepared for this fight.”
With respect to a fight plan, Gonzaga is not concerned with his opponent’s strength as a boxer and is willing to stand and fire with Dos Santos.
“I don’t think this fight will hit the ground, I believe I am a better striker and I want to prove that, I am not afraid to stand and strike with anyone. If the fight goes to the ground it is my place anyway,” he explained.
With a win over Dos Santos, Gonzaga is poised to take another run at the heavyweight belt. He respects UFC champion Brock Lesnar, but believes the former WWE star is fallible.
“He is the champion and proved to be the best at the moment. For sure he is a tough competitor, but I also believe our division is very even and I think he will not hold this belt for much time,” he explained.
Gonzaga envisions himself with the strap and delights at the notion of completing a Brazilian trilogy of UFC champions, joining fellow Brazilians, UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva and UFC light-heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida, at the helm of the organization.
“I will have that belt on day, you can mark it. I train a lot for this and I believe that will be sooner than later,” he stated.
Despite Gonzaga’s lofty aspirations, his road to a championship runs through Junior Dos Santos and he is an opponent not to be overlooked.