Fernando Gonzalez has been on a tear since joining Bellator. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Fernando Gonzalez has reached a point in his Bellator tenure where it might be time to start viewing him less as a Cinderella and more as a legitimate contender.
At least that’s the way Gonzalez sees it after garnering consecutive victories over Karl Amoussou, Karo Parisyan and Marius Zaromskis in his first three promotional outings. In his mind, the most recent of those triumphs, a three-round verdict against Zaromskis at Bellator 132, served to solidify that the Menifee, Calif., native is no flash in the pan.
“I felt like with that last fight it showed for sure that it wasn’t a fluke,” Gonzalez told Sherdog.com. “The first fight against Amoussou was a back-and-forth fight, and it was real close. The second one I caught Parisyan pretty quick. Those first two fights they could have said, ‘Oh, it’s a fluke,’ or whatever. We went three rounds and I was happy with it. It still was one of the most fun fights I’ve had against one of the top level guys.”
With that said, Gonzalez is unsure where he stands in the hierarchy of Bellator’s welterweight division. After contemplating retirement not all that long ago, “The Menifee Maniac” is simply happy to be winning fights against opponents with decent name value.
“That’s gonna be up to Bellator. I’m up for it but... I didn’t want to quit without getting to compete against some of the best guys in the world. They’re giving me the opportunity,” he said. “If they keep giving me good guys and exciting fights, that’s all I’m really happy with. I know eventually if I keep putting on the shows that I do they’re going to eventually give me a title shot. That day will come; I’ve just got to keep fighting these tough guys.”
Gonzalez will attempt to keep the momentum going on May 15 when he squares off with Curtis Millender in a featured bout at Bellator 137 at Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, Calif. For the first time since his Bellator tenure began, Gonzalez will be the better-known commodity on fight night.
Millender was set to make his debut against Michael Page at Bellator 134, but a last-minute switch left him paired with Brennan Ward. The newcomer suffered his first career defeat that night, tapping to a rear-naked choke 1:37 into the bout. That abbreviated outing makes it somewhat difficult for Gonzalez to assess what his upcoming foe has to offer.
“He was thrown into a big stage fight, which plays a big factor on your nerves and how you’re gonna perform,” Gonzalez said. “I’m expecting the best Curtis Millender and that’s what I came for.”
As a veteran of many short-notice fights on the regional circuit, Gonzalez is familiar with some of the obstacles Millender faced in his loss to Ward.
“A lot of those small circuits, we’re switching opponents the day of, two, three times. By the end of the day you’re fighting like the third guy that they picked. I know how that feeling is. I know how that plays a factor into your mindset,” he said. “The biggest thing he had was that it was on television, it was being recorded and then they switched it. I think a lot of it had to do with his mental game on that fight.”
While Millender is just trying to establish a foothold, Gonzalez is in a better place than he’s been at any other point in his 36-bout career. His recent success has opened doors -- not just for himself, but for some of his training partners.
“A lot of things are starting to open up. My gym’s starting to do a lot better. More people are coming in and supporting me,” Gonzalez said.
“With this opportunity I get calls from other shows, and I’m actually able to help some of my training partners get on shows. We were struggling for a while... I’ve gotten two or thee of my teammates on with Bellator at Pechanga. They’ve been really cool to take care of us. I’m really excited and happy to be with Bellator.”