by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
As the new promotion Dream prepares to debut on March 15, one of the organization’s biggest stars on day one will be top ranked lightweight Gesias “JZ” Calvancante, who is ready to return to action and face another top fighter in Shinya Aoki during the first round of Dream’s upcoming lightweight tournament.
The two standouts were set to square off in December as a part of the year-end Yarennoka! event in Japan, but an injury forced Calvancante off the card.
Now with his health back to 100 percent, he is looking forward to entering the tournament and facing Aoki in the first round. The lightweight phenom is excited about the match-up and the field of fighters he may soon face in Dream.
“I always look for the big challenges,” said Calvancante in an interview with MMAWeekly Radio. “Sometimes people think about easy fights. I just want to go in there and do what I do, do what I love to do.”
The bout with Aoki pits Calvancante against a fighter who has gained much recognition for his jiu-jitsu game, most recognizably his rubber guard, which he picked up from famed Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu instructor Eddie Bravo.
Recently, the master of the rubber guard made a trip to Florida to work with Calvancante and his teammates at American Top Team to ready him for what Aoki will likely use in their bout if the action hits the mat.
“Eddie Bravo is a nice guy, being around the UFC and backstage we always talk,” Calvancante stated. “We invited him to come (work with American Top Team), for sure we talked about (the fight with Aoki), and he has an amazing guard, really good, he showed me a lot of stuff.”
With a relative who’s who list of fighters to work with, Calvancante is happy to have training partners that are able to mimic and work like Shinya Aoki.
“I’m happy I have Cole Miller and Micah Miller that have a similar body type and flexibility (as Aoki),” he commented. “I’m really thankful for those guys a lot.”
It’s no secret that Aoki’s best chance to win is on the ground, but Calvancante doesn’t fear such a scenario and welcomes the challenge.
“I don’t care, I’m an MMA fighter,” he said. “I have a nice team with the American Top Team, for me the best in the world right now. We work with everything. I work with the best guys in the world, especially in the ground game.”
The bout between Calvancante and Aoki is part of the first round of a tournament that features many of the top lightweight fighters in the world. But could the winner of this fight or possibly the tournament be the No. 1 lightweight in the world?
“It could be the No. 1,” said Calvancante. “I think for right now, it’s just (Takanori) Gomi, B.J. Penn, and Sean Sherk; those three guys are out of the tournament and at the top of the weight class, but they are in different organizations so for sure the winner from the tournament could be No. 1.”
Right now, Calvancante’s focus is solely on Shinya Aoki and their match-up this weekend.