Former Titan Fighting Championship heavyweight titleholder Chase Gormley will face perhaps the most important test of his career when he climbs into the cage to meet Pride Fighting Championships veteran Sergei Kharitonov at Bellator 175 this Friday at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois.
Gormley enters the three-round clash on the heels of consecutive split decision victories over Joey Beltran and Bobby Brents. The 33-year-old Torrance, California, native has won seven of his past eight bouts. Meanwhile, Kharitonov finds himself on the rebound following a shocking 16-second knockout loss to Javy Ayala at Bellator 163 on Nov. 4. The setback snapped a five-fight winning streak for the Russian paratrooper.
In this exclusive interview with Sherdog.com, Gormley touches on his forthcoming battle with Kharitonov, his ability to overcome adversity and the possibility of fighting for the vacant Bellator MMA heavyweight championship:
Sherdog.com: What are your thoughts on this matchup with Kharitonov?
Gormley: It’s a great opportunity for me because he’s a great fighter. This will show exactly where I’m at, especially after my last two fights, because I wasn’t too happy with those, even though I won. Everything’s starting to come together. My body feels good, and I am very confident going in. I think we have a great game plan for this fight, and I know I can’t go in there and just shut down. I have to go on the offensive and go after him because he still could be hurt from that last fight. His last fight was a nightmare for him, and I want to make this a nightmare for him. I’ve got to create chaos.
Sherdog.com: Do you see Kharitonov’s loss to Ayala as just a blip of the radar or a sign that he has moved well beyond his prime?
Gormley: That’s fan and media talk. Most of the time, they don’t even know what’s really happening out there. When a heavyweight hits you, usually that’s a wrap. I don’t care how healthy you are because if you get hit by an almost 300-pound guy, it’s like getting hit by a truck. With Sergei, I think he was reckless and tried to make something happen. He didn’t sit behind his jab and wait for openings. He was wild, and Javy took advantage of it. A lot of times these guys fight big names and they go out there and turn into cowards. Javy didn’t do that. He fought him like a man, and he won like a man. Sergei might have gone out there and thought nothing of the guy and went out there carefree, but he got clipped. My plan is to do exactly what Javy did to him, but it will be more difficult because I expect Sergei to be much more cautious now.
Sherdog.com: Do you plan to test his gas tank?
Gormley: I’m going to make him work, man. That’s just my style. Even in my last two fights, they might not have been the prettiest things you’ve ever seen, but I’m going to keeping hitting you and hitting you. Even if you hit me with a few big punches, you can’t deny me the win because I hit you with a hundred. I would love to go out there and knock someone out or submit him quickly because these three-round fights are for the birds. I’m always in shape to go the distance, but I would really love a stoppage.
Sherdog.com: Is there any added pressure considering that Kharitonov will be the best known fighter you will have fought?
Gormley: Absolutely not. I love being the underdog. When I’m the favorite to win, I feel more pressure because it’s a guy I’m supposed to beat. I bet 90 percent of the fans expect me to lose, so I just go out there and have fun. I just need to make sure I do everything that I’m supposed to do, but I don’t care what the fans or experts think. My job is to win.
Sherdog.com: You went 1-4 between Oct. 24, 2009 and Aug. 20, 2011 and were released by the UFC. What was going on in your career during that difficult time?
Gormley: I just wasn’t training. There’s no other way to put it. I was not taking anything seriously, and I was taking fights on short notice. I needed two grand in my wallet, and it was a quick way to earn some cash so I fought. I just didn’t care anymore, and I retired after I won that fight [against Brandon Sayles] in [Xtreme Fighting Championships in 2012]. I got a job as a plumber and then at Home Depot doing retail merchandising, and after doing this for two years, I was like, ‘I don’t know how people do this.’ I couldn’t take it, working a regular 9-to-5 job, so I went back to gym and made it a point to rededicate myself. I promised myself and my team that the Chase Gormley of the past was gone and that this is a new version of me. I said that if I ever started showing signs of being lazy again, then I would retire for good, but that hasn’t happened.
Sherdog.com: Did you completely overhaul your team and approach after you came back from retirement?
Gormley: No, I didn’t make that big of a change other than re-focusing myself on my training. I’ve always been a tough guy, a pretty good fighter, and like I said before, I was just lazy. I wasted a few years of my [MMA] life by being lazy and not taking anything seriously. I had something great going. I was in the UFC but didn’t care. Even after I got released, I was like, ‘Whatever,’ and then I retired. It was a waste and I knew when I came back that I would never let that happen again. All it took was for me to put everything into this, and I want to get that Bellator belt. I can’t screw this up.
Sherdog.com: You were knocked out by Dan Charles in your Bellator debut in 2015 and have not lost since. What went wrong in there?
Gormley: I think I was fighting a little too loose in that fight. I had my hands down and he caught me with a right hand over the top. I tried firing out my jab, and he got me. It happens. It wasn’t like I didn’t take him seriously. He got me with that overhand and then he kept punching. I didn’t get knocked out cold with one punch, though; he hit me with a lot of shots and that was it. I can’t dwell on it or beat myself up over it. It happened, and I had to regroup and correct a few mistakes I made.
Sherdog.com: Many pundits believe the heavyweight division leaves a lot to be desired. How does that make you feel?
Gormley: I’m not one to care what other people say. I just train hard and go out and fight. I perform to the hardest of my abilities. There are a lot of guys who can rise to the top and be the champ, but I think the main reason people say the heavyweights are down is because there isn’t that big star like Conor McGregor. There isn’t a heavyweight who is vocal like him and says what he says. Obviously, it has worked for him, but for me, that’s just not my style. I’m not going to go out there and disrespect my opponent. Sure, I can talk trash and get more exposure, but that’s just not me; but I do feel as though this division is mine for the taking, and that’s my ultimate goal.
Sherdog.com: When do you expect to fight for the title in Bellator?
Gormley: That’s all up to Bellator to decide. I just need to go out there and make sure I take care of business against Sergei. Right now, I’m at a crossroads and my performance will [dictate] whether Bellator wants to keep me around. This is the last fight on my contract with Bellator and I need to make it count. Losing is not an option. I am going to go out there and win this fight and make Bellator want to keep me. That’s what I have to do. I have no choice.