The Year Of Gonzaga Begins At UFC 96

The heavyweight division in the UFC may crown the next top contender on Saturday night as Brazilian Gabriel Gonzaga tries to take one more step towards his championship dreams as he faces undefeated prospect, Shane Carwin, in Columbus, OH at UFC 96.

For Gonzaga, the opponent has never mattered as much as the challenge, and he knows that Carwin is the real deal and a very tough opponent.

“Carwin is a big guy with great power and wrestling background. Great fighter, undefeated and (he’s) been training in a great camp,” Gonzaga said about his opponent in an exclusive interview with

On fight night, Carwin will likely step into the cage weighing well above the 265lb heavyweight limit, and as a massive fighter gives him a size and strength advantage in almost any bout. Despite his opponent’s size, Gonzaga says he will not put on any extra weight to try and contend with Carwin, but will instead use his skill to test the Colorado native who has yet to go out of the first round in his professional career.

“I am training very good and I am going to this fight ready to fight three rounds if we have to,” Gonzaga stated. “It will be a great fight.”

Going to the ground is nothing new to Gonzaga, who holds a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and has competed in countless grappling tournaments. His opponent, Shane Carwin, has a tremendous pedigree in the wrestling world, which leads many to wonder if he’ll test his ground work against that of Gonzaga’s.

“We have to respect his wrestling skills, but I am training a lot (of) wrestling, but it would be interesting to see how we match it…his wrestling skills on top, and my BJJ on the bottom,” said Gonzaga.

With the announcement on Monday that the UFC will be pitting Frank Mir against Brock Lesnar to unify the heavyweight title, Gonzaga knows that his chance at the championship could depend on this fight, but his mind is only thinking about one thing.

“The heavyweight (division) is getting better all the time with new comers, and it is awesome!” Gonzaga stated. “I would face anyone that the UFC asked me. At this point I am just focused on Carwin and after that let’s see what happens.”

Regardless of a future title shot or not, Gonzaga thinks that 2009 will be his year, and Shane Carwin is the first obstacle in his way.

“I think 2009 is going to be my year,” said Gonzaga. “I hope at the end of the year have the belt on my waist.”