by Al Yu – MMAWeekly.com
Gesias “JZ” Calvancante looks to solidify himself as one of
the top lightweight fighters in the world when he faces former Shooto Champion
Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro in the semi-finals of this year’s K-1 Hero’s 154-pound
tournament. As 2006’s defending Grand Prix Champion, Calvancante looks to
retain his title in one of the most highly anticipated fights of the year.
In preparation for the most defining fight of his career, the
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brown belt under Ricardo Liborio has been training hard with
other American Top Team teammates such as Jorge Santiago, Denis Kang, Thiago
Alves, Wilson Gouveia, and Marcus Aurelio.
“I’ve been training with all of my brothers at ATT. Ouali Mohamed
is helping me with my Muay Thai, Jason Kelly for wrestling, Howard Davis Jr.
with my boxing and Andre “Benkei” for my physical conditioning,” stated Gesias.
“Also, my friend Melvin Manhoef came to train here for a month. Ricardo
Liborio helps me train in all aspects.”
“American Top Team is not just a team, they’re my family,”
Commonly considered one of the best fighters in the world to
have previously never fought in a major organization, Vitor Ribeiro made his
K-1 Hero’s debut last March. “Shaolin” submitted Kazuyuki Miyata in his last
outing and moved on to the semi-finals in the 154-pound Grand Prix. The
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt sports an impressive 19-1 record and holds wins
over Tatsuya Kawajiri, Mitsuhiro Ishida, Ivan Menjivar and Joachim Hansen.
“He’s a good fighter. He has excellent Jiu-Jitsu and is
really experienced,” commented Calvancante regarding his opponent. “Definitely
a top ten fighter in this weight class. I’m not training differently for him,
not really. I’m training more of what I love to train – submission,
boxing, Muay Thai and wrestling. MMA!”
Originally scheduled to face Chute Boxe’s Andre “Dida” Amade
in the first round of the Grand Prix, Calvancante was advised by his physician
not to compete due to an aggravated hand injury. K-1 granted Gesias a bye into
the second round and Andre Amade subsequently defeated late addition Artur
Oumakhanov in a non-tournament superfight.
“Last time, my injury was an inflammation. Now it’s all
healed,” explained Gesias. “I’m ready.”
Takanori Gomi has long been considered the top lightweight
fighter in the world. Recently it was speculated that the former Pride star
would sign with K-1 Hero’s. A potential match between Calvancante and the “Fireball
Kid” could be an early candidate for fight of the year and would be one of the
highest profile fights in Hero’s history.
“That would be a great fight,” commented Gesias regarding
the prospect of fighting Gomi. “He’s been at the top for a very long time. To
me, it would mean more competition, [lead to] more exposure for K-1 and better
fights for fans to watch.”
Assuming Gesias defeats Vitor Ribeiro in his semi-final, he
would meet the winner between Caol Uno and Andre Amade later in the evening to
determine the champion. Amade is a late replacement for Kultar Gill who
suffered an injury during training. So whom does Calvancante prefer to face in
“It doesn’t matter who I face,” stated the American Top Team
fighter. “I will fight the one who deserves to be in the finals.”
On Sept. 17 in Yokohama, Japan, Gesias Calvancante will have
the opportunity to defend his Grand Prix title and stake his claim as one of
the top ten lightweight fighters in the world.
“I have been working hard to have a good performance and I
want it to show in the ring. Please look forward to my fight. American Top Team
MMAWeekly’s Scott Petersen caught up with Calvancante as he
made his final preparations for the fight. Check out the video
interview with JZ Calvancante, as well as fellow K-1 Hero’s fighters Kazushi
Sakuraba, Zelg Galesic, Melvin Manhoef and Kevin Casey.