This is number thirty-four in Jack Brown’s series of interviews with MMA fighters and personalities, and for this particular interview, we’re pleased to feature veteran flyweight/bantamweight fighter, Ulysses Gomez. Gomez has held both the bantamweight and flyweight belts in Tachi Palace Fights. He also recently competed in the UFC. Please enjoy the conversation below.
Jack Brown: What was your first experience with martial arts/combat sports, and how did it become more than just a hobby for you?
Ulysses Gomez: Being a smaller guy I used to get picked on a lot. I remember in high school I used to tell people that I trained NHB/UFC and people would leave me alone. I used to bluff my way out of fights when I was younger. I used to tell them that I was going to fight in the UFC and become a champion in it. Finally, after high school ended, I remember thinking, "Well why can't I fight in the UFC? At the very least, I can train."
I ended up doing my first BJJ class with Marc Laimon on August 1, 2001. After a few years of doing just BJJ, I started to box for UNLV. I had two fights for them and went 1-1. After boxing, I got really into Pankration, which in my opinion is really just amateur MMA. I ended up winning the world title in Turkey in 2007, and I figured the next progression was to fight pro. So in 2008 I had my first pro fight.
JB: You are well known as a fighter with great grappling skills. What has been key in helping you develop your grappling style over the years?
UG: I think in order to get good at something you have to train in it a lot. Repetition is the mother of all skills. On top of that you need to remember why BJJ was invented. What I mean by that is that BJJ is a self defense art. As long as you keep the self defense aspect you will be fine. Once you start doing sport BJJ in fights, you're asking for yourself to get in trouble. I try to keep my grappling self defense first. Keep yourself safe, then go for the submission or sweep to get on top. Lastly, kick away and get back to your feet.
JB: What do you recall about your first professional MMA fight, and how prepared do you feel you were at the time?
UG: I remember not being nervous right before my fight, which made me super nervous. I remember in the fight, at certain points, it felt like the fight was in slow-mo and at other points it felt like it was getting fast-forwarded.
As far as preparing, I think I was a little over-trained for the fight. It was 3x3 minute rounds and I was sparring 8x3 minute rounds every day. On top of that, it was at 125lbs, and I was walking around at 123 two weeks before my fight. I overdid it for sure. Ha-ha.
JB: Before entering the UFC, you were 9-2 and had won both the Tachi Palace Fights' bantamweight and flyweight championships. What was the highlight of the early part of your career and what would you attribute your success to?
UG: I would have to say winning the belt at 135lbs because I ended up submitting him in the third round. But before that I was getting my butt kicked all three rounds. Ha-ha.
I think I was successful in the beginning of my career because I had a solid base that I could always fall back on. No matter what, I knew that if I took them down, I could submit them, and more often than not, I did.
JB: Your two fights in the UFC were both losses. What did you think of those performances and your first experience in the promotion?
UG: I think I wasn't ready for my first UFC fight. I took it on two weeks notice and was unprepared. But I rolled the dice and lost. It happens. As far as my second fight, I was prepared for it and I felt that I won the fight, but the judges thought differently.
Regardless of the outcome of both fights, I was happy to fight for the UFC and try to fulfill one of my dreams. It truly was an awesome experience.
JB: After your loss this past February, you were released by the UFC. What's next for you in your MMA career?
UG: I'm going to be fighting for Pandemonium on the 1st of June.
JB: Of all the MMA fighters, in any weight class, who are the ones that you respect or admire most and why?
UG: Oh man that's an interesting question. I would say Phil Baroni because he has taught me so much outside of the cage as far as dealing with fans and pressure as well. Another person is Jay Hieron because he has really been through everything and regardless he still keeps his head up and is always in the gym training. Both guys taught me a lot about fighting.
JB: Of all the fighters that you could potentially fight, who are the ones that you are most interested in competing against?
UG: I want to beat everyone who has beaten me. As a man, it's extremely difficult to admit that another man is better than you. But ideally, I would like to fight John Moraga again.
JB: What else do you enjoy outside of training and fighting, and who are the individuals who have supported you most in life?
UG: I enjoy taking naps with my son and hanging out with him. He's only nineteen months but he has energy for days and he truly loves life. It's amazing to watch him and see the wheels turning in his head. Boring, I know. Ha-ha.
JB: Last question, Ulysses, and thanks for taking the time to do this. What does it mean to you to be a fighter and how much do you enjoy it?
UG: At first, I didn't like fighting at all, and I would win my fights and submit almost everyone. Now, I actually enjoy fighting, and I just lost two straight. So I don't know how to answer that.
Thank you so much for reading and please follow @uselessgomez and @Jackjohnbrown on Twitter.
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Thank you to @KirikJenness for @theUG .