by Steven Marrocco – MMAWeekly.com
Gilbert Yvel has finalized a seven-fight deal with the UFC that kicks off with a main card showdown with Junior Dos Santos at UFC 108.
Santos was originally scheduled to face former contender Gabriel Gonzaga on the Jan. 2 card, but was forced to withdraw due to a staph infection.
It was an unusual road to the Octagon for the Dutch striker, but he’s happy to have made it.
“It feels good,” Yvel told MMAWeekly.com on Monday. “Little nervous about it because it’s the biggest show in the world, so I have to do good. Ask me that question after my first knockout.”
After months of negotiations and Yvel’s successful bid for a provisional fight license in Nevada, manager John Lewis broke the ice with UFC president Dana White.
Lewis, who introduced White and UFC executives Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta to jiu-jitsu in 2000, made a personal plea to his former pupil in late November.
“I wanted six fights – Dana wanted eight,” Lewis said. “I (texted him), ‘how about you come over right now? I’ll let you start in the mount. If you tap me, you get eight. If I tap you, I get six.’ He texts back, ‘how bout we spar for six rounds, and then bench press contest? If I win, I get ten, if you win, you get six.'”
They both had a laugh and settled on seven, no bet. It couldn’t have hurt that UFC 108 was cursed with injuries, either.
Yvel, who once doubted whether he’d ever make it to the UFC, said Dos Santos is a perfect opponent for his debut.
“He beat (Fabricio) Werdum, he beat (Mirko) Cro Cop, and after I beat him, I take his place in the rankings, so that’s a good thing,” said Yvel. “I’m lucky this time, because he might want to stand up with me.”
The stand-up battle, of course, has eluded him for much of his career. Yvel is known for two things: his frenetically destructive striking, and the controversy that marked his early career. In June, he got lucky and found someone to stand and bang, that being former UFC heavyweight contender Pedro Rizzo. The Brazilian fell to strikes in the first round.
Yvel is fatalistic when it comes to how his fights are going to play out. But if Dos Santos takes the action to the mat, he says he’s ready. Other than that, it’s just another fight.
“The moment you walk to the cage, you feel like it’s the first time you’re going to step into the cage,” he said. “All those fights before the fight don’t count, because you’ve got to prove yourself every time. I probably have a little advantage with (experience) but I don’t know.”
Other than hunting for the elusive title of world’s best, Yvel said he craves some new bling.
“I love belts,” he laughed. “I love to have belts; the biggest UFC belt, all gold and big and heavy, ah!”