The road thorugh the UFC lightweight division is not an easy one. But if you’re Clay “The Carpenter” Guida, you can ride on it in an RV.
Guida is known around the fight community as a traveler. He makes his way across the country in a recreational vehicle, moving from spot to spot, never really settling down unless he’s prepping for a fight.
Currently, the 155-pound fighter is revving up for his UFC 125 bout with someone who is also well-known in the fight business. That someone is none other than former Pride FC lightweight champion Takanori Gomi.
Gomi, otherwise known as “The Fireball Kid,” was widely considered the number one lightweight in the world as little as three years ago. Since then, many believe the fire made famous by the Japanese mixed martial artist has dwindled down to a mere glow. A third-round submission loss to a sharp and precise Kenny Florian served as further evidence of the downward trajectory for Gomi’s career.
It wasn’t until the fight with Tyson Griffin – a common opponent of Guida’s – where Gomi threw a solid right hand that sent Griffin crashing to the mat. Moments later, the fight was stopped and that glow of Gomi’s returned to it’s fireball ways.
Guida and Gomi are sure to make for an exciting main card bout. It seems fitting that the fight lands on New Year’s Day.
“Counting down the days, man,” Guida told MMAWeekly Radio. “I’m super excited for 1/1/11.”
The world will get it’s fill of action at the stroke of midnight on Friday. 19 hours later, there will be more action to be had when Guida and Gomi kick off the first pay-per-view of 2011.
For Guida, the chance to shine against someone he considers a legend is an opportunity of a lifetime. Gomi ruled the lightweight division in Japan for years, building a reputation as a fearsome striker, leaving trails of unconscious opponents in his rear-view mirror.
Witnessing Gomi do such things has been an entertaining experience for Guida. Not only has Gomi been an outstanding performer, but he has shown a great amount of respect for his competition. Guida has seen this first hand.
“He’s a legend I’ve always enjoyed watching fight,” he said. “He was a gentleman when I met him at Shooto. When I lost, he came up and saw that I got armbarred and asked me how my arm was.”
UFC 125, however, is where respect will have to take a back seat. Regardless of how much he admires his opponent as a person, Guida feels he has a destiny to fulfill. Becoming a lightweight champion remains as his focus, and anything that stands in the way of that becomes an obstacle he’s willing to overcome by any means necessary.
“He’s standing in the way of my destiny and my dream, and that’s becoming the lightweight champion,” Guida explained.
Regardless of the criticism Gomi has received over the last three years, Guida is not preparing for a run-of-the-mill MMA fight. He knows Gomi is still dangerous. The knockout of Griffin is more than enough evidence to bring a realization of “The Fireball Kid’s” dangers.
After taking care of business with Rafael dos Anjos at UFC 117, “The Carpenter” sharpened his tools with Jackson’s MMA in Albuquerque, N.M., for what he considers a level up in difficulty of opponent.
“This is definitely a step up in competition, but we know we’re ready for it,” he said. “We’ve knocked off some good guys in the lightweight division. This will be the biggest test to date for me.
“He’s a very devastating striker.”
Stiff competition is all part of the plan for Guida. With every fight he takes, he betters himself as a competitor. With every step he takes upward, he comes closer to living his dream of owning UFC gold.
Before he physically wears a title belt, however, Guida is molding a champion’s mentality.
“I’m about challenging myself everyday, challenging myself each and every time I’m in the cage,” he said. “That’s what it’s about. To me, that’s what (makes) a true champion. It’s not by wins and losses, but by testing themselves. Success is measured by what you bring to the fight, what you take away from the fight, not always (by) if your hand is raised at the end. But my hand is getting raised next Saturday.”
Guida’s plan for attacking Gomi is simple: bring him down to Earth… literally. Taking the fight to the ground and neutralizing the strength of the Japanese fighter would be the best way of working towards a win. Eliminating Gomi’s stand-up game is the perfect way to go about doing that.
When the fight reaches the Octagon’s floor, “The Carpenter” will look to show how good his hands are… if that makes sense.
“I’m going to put Gomi on his back because I have better hands on the ground,” he said about his game plan for Saturday. “He has better hands on his feet, (but) I have better hands on the ground, and that means my ground and pound. That’s it! That’s where the fight (is) going to be won for us. Out-wrestling him, not getting caught in a war, not getting caught up in a brawl.”
It’s clear that the Guida-Gomi match-up will be a fun fight to watch. Gomi’s power will seek Guida’s chin, but Guida’s non-stop energy can be sometimes be too much for any one fighter to handle. Now, the countdown continues towards the new year, and there is no better way than to have Takanori Gomi and Clay Guida ring it in.
“What a great way to end (the year),” said Guida, “and what a great way to start 2011.”
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