Back of the line contender: UFC fighter Gegard Mousasi talks growing fan base and more
When the No. 5 ranked middleweight Gegard Mousasi (41-6-2) arrived at the UFC 210 open workouts, he was greeted to a not so familiar sound: the cheers of UFC fans.
Mousasi is usually met with a lukewarm reception, but coming off a fantastic year, things have changed.
Mousasi is scheduled to take on former middleweight champion Chris Weidman this Saturday, April 8 at UFC 210 in the KeyBank Center. A native of the Netherlands, Mousasi received just as loud a cheer as his opponent Weidman, a Baldwin, New York native.
For years, Mousasi was a middleweight and light heavyweight contender, winning championships in both Strikeforce and Dream; he did not have the fan appreciation. But with a recent four fight win streak and a more vocal expression of his opinion, Mousasi's fan base has grown in a confusing middleweight division.
“It was great that they didn’t boo, they cheered so I am thankful,” Mousasi said during the UFC 210 workout media scrum.
Over the past year, Mousasi has gone on a campaign of dominance, winning four fights in a row, three by way of knockout. And with Mousasi being more blunt with his frustrations, fight fans have started to gravitate toward Mousasi and he wants to prove those fans right.
“In New York, [MMA] has just been legalized, so I think the fans are happy to have the show here,” Mousasi said. “I think I have to prove [his hype] here, talking doesn’t mean anything if you lose, so I plan on beating Weidman on Saturday.”
Mousasi will need all the fans he can get as he approaches a title shot in the middleweight division. With elites such as Yoel Romero (13-1) and Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza (24-4 (1)) already looking like worthy contenders, Mousasi will need more key fights like the one in Buffalo.
Mousasi’s situation is only made worse by current champion Michael Bisping (30-7) being more interested in having super fights. His recent decision to book a title fight against MMA legend Georges St. Pierre(25-2) instead of one of the current contenders, left many fans and fighters upset. And even with a win against another top five middleweight like Weidman, Mousasi still doesn’t see himself as much closer.
“GSP is fighting and then Yoel Romero next, so I’ll probably have to take another fight. I will have to put everything on the line again to get that shot. It is going to be more difficult for me,” Mousasi said.
Mousasi knows what it is like to risk it all and lose as he once saw his 14-fight win streak snap back in 2010. His long time experience has made Mousasi a constant contender in a division that has been halted at the top. With long time welterweight St. Pierre having no fights at middleweight in his entire career, the upcoming title fight has many interested.
“I think GSP is better but he hasn’t fought for three years and it is in a different weight class. You never know, it is evenly matched. That is why they want to fight each other, they want to do a super fight,” Mousasi said.
With no plans to resign, Mousasi is already eyeing his next fight.
“Eventually I think they are going to go back to Holland in September, so I would like to fight there,” Mousasi said. “Give me an easy opponent, I don’t care. Give me top 10, give me top one, as long as they pay me I don’t care.”
UFC 210 is main-evented by the light heavyweight title fight between champion Daniel “DC” Cormier (18-1) and challenger Anthony “Rumble” Johnson (22-5). The prelims start at 6:15 p.m. and the main card starts at 10 p.m. this Saturday.
Thomas Zafonte is the assistant sports editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org