September 18, 2007

by Al Yu – MMAWeekly.com
The New York Pitbulls have advanced to this year’s IFL World Team Championship finals. The Renzo Gracie led team will try to stop Pat Miletich’s Silverbacks from winning their third consecutive team championship on Thursday night in Hollywood, Fla.

Replacing injured Pitbulls’ light heavyweight Jamal Patterson, Andre Gusmao is slated to face Mike Ciesnolevicz in 205-pound action. The two have already met back in September of last year, a fight in which Gusmao prevailed via TKO in the second round.

Undefeated in mixed martial arts, the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brown belt under Renzo Gracie is constantly training and may be one of the Pitbulls’ best-kept secrets. Gusmao has been training with Ricardo Almeida, Eric Owings and Renzo Gracie in preparation for his upcoming rematch.

“Training is going well, everything is awesome,” said Gusmao. “This week I’m trying to relax, just getting ready for the fight. Right now is the easy part.”

Despite Gusmao replacing him due to his injury, Patterson has been penciled back in to appear in the preliminary bouts of the event.

“He [Patterson] got injured and he healed up quickly. He said, ‘I think I’m going to fight.’ I was already scheduled to fight and he didn’t want to take that fight away from me,” explained Gusmao. “He’s taking a fight to keep himself in shape.”

Fans that have seen Andre Gusmao fight are well aware of his proclivity for striking. The 6’2″ fighter uses his reach to his advantage and knows how to finish a fight if given the opportunity.

“I’ve always been kind of both [striker and grappler]. I’ve been practicing Jiu-Jitsu for a long time. I enjoy striking as well. For this fight, I’m working with Joe Sampieri who is the Muay Thai coach at the Renzo Gracie Academy. [He’s an] awesome Muay Thai coach.”

With only four professional fights under his belt, some experts question Andre’s abilities on the ground.

“Wait and see,” responded the New York resident. “When I get my chance, I’m going to show my skills on the ground. I expect to fight more in the future. I will show more of my skills to the fans.”

The last time Gusmao faced Ciesnolevicz, his opponent was unprepared and underestimated the Brazilian’s striking ability. Since the loss, Ciesnolevicz has compiled a winning streak of five fights and has shown many improvements as a fighter.

“He’s a tough guy. He’s on a winning streak. He’s improved; he’s looking better and better,” commented Andre regarding his opponent. “It’s going to be a war.”

So has Gusmao been training differently for the rematch?

“Not really,” revealed the Capoeira instructor. “My training covers all aspects. My team trains us well. If it ain’t broke, why fix it?”

Defeating Ciesnolevicz again would be a great personal victory for Gusmao. It is, however, just a small part of a bigger picture – the IFL World Team Championship. The Brazilian fighter gave his insight on the Pitbulls’ chances of winning the championship this year.

“I think it’s a 50/50 chance. All of the fights are going to be tough; I think they can go either way. We’re all professional athletes. We’re all at 100% of our game. I think it’s going to be a 50/50 chance. A fight’s a fight, you never know what’s going to happen.”

Although he already holds a win over Ciesnolevicz, Gusmao is prepared for what will arguably be the toughest fight of his short career. Win or lose, this Pitbull plans to put on an exciting fight.

The IFL World Team Championship finals take place Thursday, Sept. 20 in Hollywood, Fla.

New York Pitbulls vs. Quad Cities Silverbacks
155 – Deividas Taurosevicius vs. Bart Palaszewski
170 – Delson Heleno vs. Jake Ellenberger
185 – Fabio Leopoldo vs. Ryan McGivern
205 – Andre Gusmao vs. Mike Ciesnolevicz
265 – Ricco Rodriguez vs. Ben Rothwell

Preliminary Bouts
155 – Ryan Schultz vs. Aaron Riley
170 – Brad Blackburn vs. Travis Cox
205 – Jamal Patterson vs. Chris Baten
265 – Rolles Gracie vs. Sam Holloway