September 12, 2005

by MMAWeekly Radio & Jeff Cain
The first four episodes of “The Ultimate Fighter” are in the books, and thus far this season has been marred with fighters quitting and injuries. Several fighters entered the show with preexisting ailments. Rob MacDonald came in with a shoulder injury, Brad Imes a knee injury, and Jorge Gurgel with a serious knee injury. MMAWeekly recently spoke with Gurgel about his knee, his take on the fighters that quit, and his amazing story of sacrifice to achieve his version of the American dream.

In the first episode alone one fighter was forced to leave due to an injury, and two fighters quit. Jorge was rather outspoken about the fighters who quit the show; Eli Joslin and Kenny Stevens. Gurgel commented, “Everybody talks about that, and it makes me happy because I didn’t go to the show to honestly be a TV clown…I’m just so sick of everybody treating MMA for the last five, or eight years that I’ve been living here like they go oh you do that cage fighting thing. You guys are crazy. No it’s not a sport. You know we’re professional athletes. We train six days a week. We have seven sick days a year like everybody else. We bust our ass to make a living in a legit sport, and I can’t stand when people go in and quit as a professional athlete. You know? It’s just not what I’m all about, and I was just myself. If you ask me a question, I don’t care if I was on the show, or I didn’t care if I was in a closed room with two people, I was going to give the answer the way I feel, and I don’t accept that. I think it makes me sick. It’s disgusting. If you go into something like that and you want to be a professional athlete, and a Mixed Martial Artist in the UFC, you give 110% or you have no business being here.”

Addressing Eli Joslin’s departure, Jorge stated, “He was having serious anxiety problems, and the camera thing wasn’t for him, but it wasn’t for anybody. None of us had reality TV experience before, and if your dream is to be a fighter, and be a champion in the UFC, and what’s keeping you from doing this is a camera in your face then you’re pretty weak. You’ve got to stay and stick to it. The camera was in everybodys face. After three days you get used to it. He didn’t want to go through even the second day, and I just don’t respect that decision. I’m sure everybody knows themselves better than other people. I don’t want to be a judge, but from where I was growing up, and from what I believe in it was an unacceptable decision, and I’m not going to have unnecessary pity for somebody that didn’t stick to the program.”

Discussing Kenny Stevens’ decision to leave the show, and which of the two quitters decision was worse in his opinion, Jorge said, “I was with them both, both situations. I was with Kenny the whole time. Kenny struggled. A lot of fighters don’t have a very good idea about nutrition, about eating properly, and everything that goes along with being a professional athlete, so I was helping Kenny with his diet from day one. He tried hard. He did what we told him to do, but he could have stuck to it man. He had enough strength left to walk around, and throw shit around. He could have made it. I believe he could have stuck to it and made it, and Rich [Franklin] believes the same, but Eli didn’t even try one more day. Both situations are very unfortunate for those guys to be on national TV, and be perceived like that. That’s the reality. That’s what happened. I still think Eli’s was worse. Kenny…He was very, very dehydrated, and dizzy, and he puked some yellow mucus, but you friggen go in the sauna, and you make the f%#king weight no matter what.”

Maybe the reason why Jorge was so outspoken was because of his sacrifices and determination to achieve what they threw away. “I really believe in God, and I think that God has a plan for everybody. I knew, now that everybody knows, going into the show I completely tore my ACL. I knew I had no stability, but I still believed I could beat everybody in that show with one knee, and I went in with that attitude. I’m a professional, and I was not going to skip on the opportunity to show my skills even though I was very injured regardless. I think I’m going to have a chance to show people my skills when I’m healthy regardless, so I’m pretty happy about that.” Jorge Gurgel told MMAWeekly.

Why would a fighter go into a reality show with that kind of injury? Many have asked that question. Gurgel’s mindset was, “Because only good things I think could happen for me. I’ve been fighting for a long, long time. It’s been some what of a long road, and all I needed was a chance. I really believed that I could still beat everybody. If anybody can fight or train with injuries, that’s me, and I was not going to skip on the show, and skip the opportunity to be in the UFC which has been my goal in life for twelve years, you know I left Brazil, I left my scholarship, my family to be in the UFC some day, because of a knee. I can totally fight with one knee, so I just stayed regardless.”

What separates Jorge Gurgel’s story from most fighters is the element of the American dream, the risk he took leaving Brazil just for the chance to make it in Mixed Martial Arts in the United States. “My parents thought I was crazy. I saw the UFC. I started doing Jiu-Jitsu twelve years ago in Brazil. I got a full ride scholarship to the best business schools back in Brazil, and I decided the UFC was here. And I was a big fan of the UFC, and I wanted to make a living doing Jiu-Jitsu and fighting. I packed up my bags and took the social test which is an English proficiency test. It’s required for you to take before coming to America. I applied for college to get a student visa, had 3,000 dollars to my name, and came to America trying to be a fighter. My parents and my family pretty much thought I was crazy. I had all these broken bones, bruises…cauliflower ears in both ears. And they were like what are you doing with your life son? You’re throwing your education away to go do this Jiu-Jitsu fighting thing. I don’t understand. What have we done wrong? I was like mom, dad I love fighting. I love competing, and one day I’m going to have Jiu-Jitsu school, and I’m going to be in the UFC.”

Jorge continued, “It’s great. It’s been a long road from eating left overs to now having ten affiliate schools…a great fighting team. It’s a great feeling to have you parents finally proud of you. You know saying that’s my son, and doing what you love for a living above anything. You can’t be happy if you don’t do what you want for a living, and I think that I already do that. And I’m very, very grateful to God that I accomplished what I wanted to do in a foreign country. It took me eight years, but I would have done it all over again if it meant that I would get here.”

He added, “It sounds bad, but I was happy the whole way because I was always doing what I wanted. I was always training Jiu-Jitsu. I went from four students the first year to ten the next year, twelve the third year. The fourth year I had fifty. I have almost 400 in schools around the country, and I’m a happy guy. I never complain. I knew that I always had a plan for me, and I will fight in the UFC. I know, and that’s all I ever wanted, and I’m happy. I don’t anyone to feel sorry for me because people had struggled, people are poor. That’s no reason to feel sorry for anybody. You just keep working hard and eventually things turn out good for you man.”

Since the show Gurgel has had his ACL replaced from a cadaver, and a full meniscus repair. There’s some question whether or not he’ll be physically able to compete on the season finale. When asked about it Jorge replied, “I’m rehabbing as fast as I can, but my doctors, and the UFC included, don’t want me to be back until I’m 100%. I’ll do what I can, but I’m sure if I’m not able to fight in the finale, which it’s still up in the air just like show, people don’t know what’s going to happen, I’ll fight the next one, or the January card, or some other time. I feel like a winner already because before the show even aired percentage wise I was the favorite, and I felt a lot of love from the fans…People want to see me fight, and that’s all that matters to me.”

Closing out the interview Jorge commented, “I never did it for the money. I’m used to being poor all my life. I just did it for people to recognize, I want people to say you’re a good fighter…I just want to be respected and admired for what I chose to do with my life, and that’s all I care.” You can see Jorge Gurgel on “The Ultimate Fighter” Monday nights at 10 PM EST, 11PM CST, and 10PM PST on Spike TV.