After two straight wins to cap off his 2016, middleweight Gabriel Checco has been sitting on the sidelines for nearly two years waiting to get a fight.
According to Checco, the lack of activity didn’t diminish his desire to fight. If anything, he’s even more pumped now to return to action.
“It’s been almost two years, not because I wanted, but because I had no calls, no options to move forward,” Checco told MMAWeekly.com. “I got the call last year for (Dana White’s) Contender Series, but unfortunately I couldn’t fight for medical issues.
Checco has used his time off to his advantage by not only focusing on developing his overall game, but especially paying attention to his stand-up game.
“I’ve been training all the time and never laid off training; just laid off fighting,” said Checco. “I was just getting better in every aspect; not just my Jiu-Jitsu, but my striking and wrestling; I just want to get better every time and be a better fighter.
“I know my weakness is my striking. That’s what I’ve been working on the gym. I’m getting better. My coach is helping with my hands. I have good training partners that not only spar with me, but correct me to make me better.”
Friday night in Vail, Colorado, Checco (10-2) will return to the cage for the first time since 2016 when he faces Ian Heinisch (9-1) in the interim 185-pound championship main event at LFA 39.
“I don’t know if he is going to be smart and just strike with me, or not so smart and try to take me down,” Checco said of Heinisch. “If you want to bang; we’re going to bang. If you’re going to try to take me down; welcome to my world.
“When I don’t like striking, I’ll pull guard. My coach doesn’t like when I do that, but one day I’m going to convince him that fighting off my back is a good idea. Not a lot a fighters can do that. I have no problem. Even though punches are coming, I know I can get away with a lot of stuff.”
For Checco, not only is the mail goal to work his way to the UFC, but to be successful enough at fighting that he can focus on his career in the cage and teaching Jiu-Jitsu outside it.
“Actually, my main job, I don’t call it a job, because I really enjoy teaching,” said Checco. “But I really just want to fight and teach. That’s what I feel comfortable doing, and that’s what I want to have.
“I’ll tell you that (UFC) call is going to come Friday night after the fight or Saturday morning. I know they want me there. I know my caliber is to be there. I just haven’t been at the right place at the right moment with the right people.”