by Jason Remillard (The Republican)
Originally published in the Republican by Jason Remillard.
LUDLOW, MASS. – A much-deserved hero’s welcome awaited Gabriel Gonzaga Tuesday evening as he walked through the door of the Marco Alvan Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Training Center.
Alvan’s students interrupted their lessons to give the newest Ultimate Fighting Championship superstar a hearty ovation and to shake the hand of the man who put Ludlow on the mixed martial arts map.
Gonzaga, 27, pulled off one of the biggest upsets in UFC and MMA history Saturday when he knocked out Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic in the main event of “UFC 70: Nations Collide” in Manchester, England.
The rest of the world might only be getting to know “Napao,” but to the men who greeted him at the door, he’s just another member of Team Link.
“I want to thank all my teammates,” Gonzaga said through his manager and translator, Alvan. “No one can be in the best of shape without their partners.”
Even though he’s still just one of the guys in Ludlow, Gonzaga’s profile is about to rise.
His next fight is for the UFC heavyweight championship against 43-year-old hall-of-famer Randy “The Natural” Couture. There is speculation in MMA circles that the title bout will take place Aug. 25, but Alvan said nothing is definite.