Prior to his bout last October against Shawn Jordan at WSOF 33, heavyweight Ashley Gooch had picked up two wins in 2016 and was riding high on an eight-fight winning streak.
Though Gooch was unable to pick up again against Jordan, he still feels last year was a good one for him.
“It was a pretty good year, and I had some really good progress, but then I ran into Shawn Jordan,” Gooch told MMAWeekly.com. “I wasn’t 100% healthy going into that fight. No fighter is ever really 100%, but I was at about 75% for that fight. It is what it is.
“As far as the year, I felt like it was a pretty good year. I wish I would have stayed a little more active. But that injury during the camp of the Jordan fight, it took a while to heal up from that.”
When it comes to the winning streak that preceded his loss to Jordan, Gooch believes his maturation as a fighter played a big part in a three-year undefeated streak.
“I’m just becoming a better fighter, and becoming more cerebral in my fights instead of just trying to walk through people,” said Gooch.
“I had some really tough challenges in there. I had to overcome a lot of obstacles and get myself in a position to fight through adversity and overcome, and we did a pretty good job of that, me and my camp.”
Gooch (10-5) will make the first defense of his heavyweight title against Juliano Coutinho (7-3) in the CES 45 main event on Friday in Lincoln, Rhode Island.
“Chaz Morgan came down and trained me a little bit at the MMA Lab, so I did watch (Coutinho) when he fought Chaz, but other than that I don’t know a whole lot about him,” Gooch said.
“We’ll see what happens with his Jiu-Jitsu and my stand-up. I’m definitely not a black belt on the ground, but I still feel like I can hold my own with anybody.”
Should Gooch prove successful in his first CES title defense, he feels like his next could be right around the corner, as well as an upcoming return to WSOF in their Professional Fighters League incarnation.
“Mostly I’ll retain the title and we’ll be up for another title defense against probably Greg Rebello, who I’m guessing is chomping at the bit,” said Gooch.
“Then PFL, I’m in that heavyweight tournament there. And of course the UFC is every man’s dream. I’m going to take it one fight at a time, and whatever happens, happens, and whatever call comes in, just try to be ready for that.”