Gegard Mousasi has been a champion for nearly every promotion he has fought.
He was a champion in Cage Warriors and Strikeforce. He even held titles in two different weight classes for Dream, the Japanese follow-up to Pride FC.
Since making the move to the UFC in 2013, Mousasi has struggled to mine the gold that he’s used to.
Following the loss to Jacare, Mousasi has rebounded with his first back-to-back victories in the Octagon – over Dan Henderson and Costas Philippou. Hoping to work his way into a battle for the belt, he’ll try to make it three out of three when he steps in the cage with Uriah Hall this weekend in Japan.
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Having spent a large portion of his 12-plus-year career fighting in Japan, Mousasi certainly likes his odds… for many reasons. Chief among his advantages is his comfort level fighting in the Land of the Rising Sun.
“It’s an advantage for me fighting in Japan. I’m familiar there. I have friends there. I’ve been fighting so long there… it’s new for my opponent. For me, it’s nothing new. It’s like fighting in my backyard,” Mousasi told MMAWeekly.com before making the trip to Tokyo.
“Those things make a difference. Mentally, it’s good for me to fight in Japan.”
That’s not to say that Mousasi is putting this one in the books before it even happens. He is confident, but is also well aware that he doesn’t enter the cage alone. Hall will be standing across the Octagon from him, and Hall, like Mousasi, is a professional.
He expects Hall to be nothing less than “100-percent” ready.
Aside from the mental boost from his comfort level in Japan, Mousasi also thinks that having to switch from an initial match-up with Roan Carneiro to Hall is good for him.
Unlike Hall, who is more well known for his striking prowess, Carneiro likely would have tried to take Mousasi to the mat in a search for a submission. The Dutch fighter is comfortable on the floor, but the ground game is Carneiro’s specialty. With a strong kickboxing background combined with his solid ground game, Mousasi believes he has the advantage nearly anywhere the fight goes with Hall. He couldn’t necessarily say that with Carneiro.
“I think (Hall) is a better match-up for me because I can go be more aggressive than my previous opponent, because (Carneiro) wants to take me down and maybe submit me,” Mousasi said. “But maybe Uriah Hall is going to try and surprise me and take me down also, but I think, with him, he’s more of a stand-up guy. It’s gonna be a better match-up for me stylewise.
“I feel like I’m better everywhere. But I do respect my opponent. He’s a tough guy and a fight is a fight. But I feel I am better in all areas of MMA, but I still have to get the job done.”
If he does get the job done, Mousasi would start to nudge up against the top of the division again, forcing his way into the title picture. The current UFC middleweight lay of the land being what it is, however, Mousasi knows that, even with a victory over Hall, the timing isn’t right for him to leap over some of those ahead of him in the line.
UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman is already slated to defend against Luke Rockhold at UFC 194 in December. Jacare will face Yoel Romero on that same card. Vitor Belfort is scheduled to fight Dan Henderson in November.
With everyone ahead of him in the rankings fighting in November or December, Mousasi still has of drawing a high profile opponent early next year. The odds are slim, but he holds out hope for a fight with Belfort.
“My goal is a title shot, but I’m not going to get a title with Uriah Hall. My keys to get to the title is beat my next opponent and finish him from this fight. And then, if I have three fights in a row (where I) win, I hope, I hope Vitor Belfort fight this time,” said Mousasi.
“He doesn’t want to fight me, knowing Vitor Belfort. I hope that Vitor Belfort or Michael Bisping has a good fight, they are top-ranked high-name fighters, if I beat one of them, I could be in the line next. Or even Anderson Silva if he comes back, that would be nice.
“Those are the fights I need to get closer to a title shot.”
First and foremost, however, Mousasi returns to his adopted home in Japan to take care of Hall. If he doesn’t do that, all of the talk about Belfort, Bisping, or Silva is for naught.