Gurgel a ‘Caged Animal’ for Evangelista

By Lutfi Sariahmed Nov 4, 2009
After going 3-4 during his stint in the UFC, Jorge Gurgel needed a change. He decided to leave his own gym in Cincinnati for Boston to train with noted muay Thai trainer Mark DellaGrotte.

Under DellaGrotte’s care, Gurgel made an impression against Conor Heun in his promotional debut for Strikeforce last June. He’ll try to repeat that against striker Billy Evangelista at Strikeforce Challengers 4 this Friday in Fresno, Calif. To do that, Gurgel had to go back to DellaGrotte's basement.

“The basement definitely does something different to you, especially when you're there seven weeks,” said Gurgel on Sherdog Radio Network's “Beatdown” show last week. “I have not slept in my bed. I have not driven my car. I haven't been around my students and my house for seven weeks. So the basement really does turn you into a frickin' caged animal. I'm ready to just get out of here and go to Fresno and do my job.”

If seven weeks in a basement equipped with only a small TV, stove and microwave sounds like an odd way to spend a training camp, also consider that Gurgel left capable teammates like Rich Franklin and Dustin Hazelett behind in Ohio for it.

“I needed seclusion,” said Gurgel. “Try (fighting and) being the head of the school with a lot of talent. You have to run practice and I can't do that. Here I'm just a fish. Here I'm just another guy that gets in, gets out and I do what they tell me.”

Although he’s an accomplished Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, Gurgel has been known to keep his fights standing, where more often than not he ends up in drawn-out dog fights. It’s made him a crowd favorite, but hasn’t necessarily helped his record, which led to his release from the UFC earlier this year. However, Strikeforce signed the entertaining lightweight shortly after.

“I'm just not the guy to push the takedown or push the fight to the ground,” said Gurgel. “I have a lot of confidence in my chin. I have a lot of confidence in my standup. I'm not a person to force anything. I'm not trying to get in and out. That's the most fun I'll have when I'm inside that cage for as long as it takes.”

Likewise, Gurgel said his strategy probably won’t change much against the undefeated Evangelista.

“My plan with Billy Evangelista, I'm sure his plan too, (is) I'm trying to castrate him,” said Gurgel. “I'm going in there trying to separate his head from his shoulders and I hope he comes with the same game plan and we're going to see whose muay Thai is better. If he would rather wrestle and take the fight to the ground, I'm very comfortable there as well (and) then you're going to get some jiu-jitsu.”

Under DellaGrotte’s tutelage, Gurgel feels he’s become a completely different fighter from what the world saw on season two of “The Ultimate Fighter.”

“I found a home here,” said Gurgel. “I really trust my trainer. I really believe in Mark. He's really changed me as a fighter and now I can listen to the commands, obey the commands and change the game plan as the fight progresses. The first thing you have to do when you listen to your corner is you have to be able to trust it. And everything that Mark says, I trust his words and trust in what he believes I'm capable of doing and that's the main difference. I'm a coachable fighter now.”

More Gurgel » On Leaving Ohio, Evangelista’s Strategy, and the Marcus Davis Twitter Affair
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