Pedro Gonzalez competes Friday night at Lion Fight 19. | Photo: Bennie Palmore
Pedro Gonzalez is by all accounts a newcomer to the sport of muay Thai. Yes, he has been fighting professionally for several years and practicing the art for almost as long, but he has just two professional muay Thai fights under his belt. His reward: an experienced Thai fighter with 75 pro bouts to his credit.
Gonzalez will tackle Rungrat Sasiprapa -- he of the 50-24-1 record -- at Lion Fight 19 on Friday at the Foxwoods Resort and Casino in Ledyard, Conn. True to his roots, Gonzalez seems undeterred by the number of victories beside his opponents name; he just wants to fight Sasiprapa.
“I’m a pressure fighter. Rungrat’s a traditional Thai fighter,” Gonzalez told Sherdog.com. “With the traditional muay Thai guys, they like to be patient and set up their combos and have a flow to their game. I’ve been learning how to fight in a more traditional way in terms of throwing the proper kicks and knees, but my plan is go out there and swarm him, to make him very uncomfortable so he can’t get into a rhythm. I don’t know if he can handle my pressure the whole time.”
There is not much film available on Gonzalez in terms of straight muay Thai. However, Rungrat’s fights are all over the Internet, as are those of many of his teammates.
“A lot of those Sasiprapa guys start off very slowly,” Gonzalez said. “I’ve been watching a ton of film on him and a lot of the guys that fight and train out the Sasiprapa gym, and they don’t like the early pressure, which is what I do. I think that if I can pressure him with my style right from the start, I can knock him out.”
A knockout against one of the toughest Thai fighters on the circuit would be a game-changer for Gonzalez, personally and professionally. He grew up dirt poor and often homeless, the son of a single mother who battled to keep her kids fed and warm. The constant struggle of living in shelters or on the streets and not knowing when or where he would eat his next meal molded Gonzalez into the man he is today.
“It was tough growing up because my mom left my dad when I was around 5 or so,” Gonzalez said. “We were homeless for a while. Sometimes we were able to stay at a friend’s house and sleep on the floor or in the basement. When we finally were able to get our own place, I mean we had nothing in it. My family and I would literally have to cuddle on the floor together to stay warm because we didn’t have heat.
“My mom is tough, man, and she struggled badly,” he added. “She worked her ass off and she tried very hard to have some sort of father figure for us, but every [boyfriend] she had just didn’t work out. It was bad, but I love her and I tell her that every day.”
Gonzalez endured even more turmoil later in life, as he had to separate from the mother of his children, thus preventing him from being involved in their lives on a daily basis. That, he said, has been the most difficult part of his entire life. While he was going through the painful separation from his then-girlfriend, his fighting career was on the ropes. He lost fights he should not have lost, and his lack of focus forced him to step away from the sport in order to get his life straightened out.
“It was a huge distraction and it definitely cost me some fights and losses,” Gonzalez said. “Once I got everything situated, I was able to go back to training and I’ve been on a roll ever since. Things are still tough with not being able to see my kids every day, but it is getting easier day by day.”
Gonzalez has taken part in 15 fights as a professional mixed martial arts fights but has elected to transition to muay Thai, where he feels more comfortable. He has compiled a 10-5 record in MMA, with nine of those wins by submission.
“My record’s a little misleading because, throughout most of my MMA career, I’ve fought mostly wrestlers and grapplers, so the fight was always going to the ground,” Gonzalez said with a chuckle. “Early on, I was getting taken down a lot, so I focused much of my training on grappling and started submitting people. I do have really good striking, and I’ve been training on that a lot more.”
Gonzalez splits his training between two gyms in the Boston area: Redline Fight Sports in Cambridge, Mass., where he works alongside Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran John Howard, Patrick Wallace and Eric Grossman, and North Shore Muay Thai in Beverly, Mass., where he sharpens his skills with Marc Meltzer and Niko Qirjazo.
“It’s a tough road to be getting beat up by all these tough guys every day, but it’s worth it,” he said. “If I can survive the sparring sessions with those dudes, I like my chances against Rungrat.”
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