Former number one UFC heavyweight contender Gabriel “Napao” Gonzaga joined Patrick Cote on the list of former UFC title contenders released from their UFC contracts last week.
The the 31-year-old Gonzaga confirmed the news on his official Twitter account, writing, “Official now – Out of UFC – Thanks for all your support – back to normal life and BJJ forever.”
In a recently released video (which you can view above), Gonzaga noted that his fighting future was in question after being cut from the organization.
“MMA… I don’t know because I’m not going to fight for cheap money, and the UFC was paying me well,” Gonzaga said. “Another organization is there and I don’t know if they are interested in me or not. My main goal is to not fight MMA again, but if you have a good prize, I can be back fighting.”
His release comes on the heels of a unanimous decision loss to up-and-comer Brendan Schaub as the two squared off over the weekend at UFC 121. Gonzaga was unable to mount much offense on the more mobile Schaub despite revamping his training by spending time at Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Gonzaga rebounded from one of the worst UFC debuts in history (a mirror-image of the Frank Mir-Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic UFC 119 bout against little known Kevin Jordan at UFC 56 back in 2005) to earn a title shot after finishing three more opponents in a row. After defeating Jordan (KO), Fabiano Scherner (TKO), and Carmelo Marrero (submission), Gonzaga earned the most high-profile win of his career when he knocked out PRIDE legend Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic with the striker’s own preferred weapon: a left high kick.
From there, Gonzaga would earn a shot at then-champion Randy Couture’s belt; losing to “The Natural” via TKO at UFC 74. Gonzaga’s UFC career would remain spotty from there on out, offsetting wins over Justin McCully, Josh Hendricks and Chris Tuchscherer with losses to Fabricio Werdum, Shane Carwin, Junior dos Santos and Schaub.
While Gonzaga didn’t sound too optimistic about entering the cage again, he didn’t shut the door on MMA completely.
“Definitely, I can fight again but it’s not going to be soon,” Gonzaga said. “I’m not looking for right now and I don’t know they want to pay me what I think I should have to fight. So a lot of ifs, a lot of if I’m going to fight or not. It’s not completely done, but it’s not completely come back, so maybe. ‘Maybe’ is the word.”
Thanks to Mark Wayne for contributing to this article.