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Jorge Gurgel: “I can’t be released from a childhood dream”

Jorge Gurgel’s seven fight tenure in the UFC recently ended following consecutive losses to Cole Miller at UFC 86 and Aaron Riley at UFC 91.

Soon after the loss to Riley – a bout in which he garnered a $60,000 “Fight of the Night” bonus – the UFC moved to purge Gurgel from its roster.

However, Gurgel’s gutsy performances in the Octagon clearly made an impact in the eyes of talent evaluators presiding over other fight promotions, as San Jose-based Strikeforce moved to add Gurgel to its lightweight division almost immediately following his release.

Gurgel recently took time out to speak exclusively with regarding the process in which he arrived in Strikeforce after departing the UFC.

Question: How did everything go down over the past few days – starting with your UFC release to the signing with Strikeforce?

Jorge Gurgel: Well, I can’t be released from a childhood dream – which the UFC has always has been for me – and be truly and thoroughly happy about it. It’s disappointing for anyone to get released from any job, but at the same time, I’m very excited to start a new chapter of my life – to fight in a new organization, to fight new competition, to fight in a new cage. I’m going to come out a totally new Jorge Gurgel. I am really excited about it.

Q: How did this happen so quickly?

JG: I told Monte (Cox) that if I get released, which I knew it was a possibility, even though everyone told me it wouldn’t happen because I almost always get fight of the night. When the UFC officially sent me the devastating e-mail that I had been released, not only did I get a lot of calls from the UFC, I got a lot of calls from a lot of different people.

Q: Has Strikeforce said when you’d be fighting next?

JG: No, but I want to know. I just had a couple of bone spurs taken out of my elbow. I just had surgery a couple of days ago, and I ran six miles today. It was a minor surgery. I’m going to take a little time off and go to Brazil to see my Dad and to train with my home guys where I started. I’m going to come back fresh. Hopefully, in three weeks, I should be fully training – punching and grappling. By the end of January, I hope to be fully ready to go in Strikeforce.

Q: How long are you signed with Strikeforce for?

JG: Three fights.

Q: Strikeforce certainly does have a couple of very good lightweights on its roster in Gilbert Melendez and Josh Thomson. What are your thoughts on those guys?

JG: Those guys are top of the world. Besides BJ Penn, they rank higher in the world rankings then most of the guys in the UFC. You know Josh Thomson is ranked higher than any other lightweight in the UFC besides BJ Penn and maybe Sean Sherk as well. It’s not like I’m going someplace to get easier fights.

I’m sure Strikeforce is not going to give me those guys right off the bat. My goal is to climb the ladder like anyone else. I’m going to be prepared. I want to get my first fight out of the way and my second fight out of the way, and hopefully in my third and forth fight, I’ll get to fight the contenders and we’ll go from there.

Q: I know you said earlier that you thought the release from the UFC was a possibility, but were you surprised it happened like this?

JG: Yes. I’m not going to lie, but I’m not surprised from Joe Silva’s standpoint. I’m very good friends with Joe Silva, and we’ve known each other for a very long time. He called and said that he hates to do this, but you’ve lost two in a row. The losses were mainly due to me being stupid though. In the Cole Miller fight, I was beating him decisively for three rounds and then I got caught in a triangle with ten seconds left. In the Aaron Riley fight, I hurt my shin in the second round and could not kick him anymore. I won the first round, and somehow, my retarded head veered from the game plan, and I was having too much fun striking when I should have taken him to the ground to submit him.

This is a business. I lost two in a row. It’s heartbreaking, but it’s not like I’m going to look down and pick up an alcohol habit. They cut me. It does hurt my pride that I was released. I printed the letter, and I framed it. I will read it every day, and one day, I will be champion of the world and look back to everyone and say ‘how do you like me now?’

Q: One guy you’ve trained with for a long time is former UFC middleweight champion Rich Franklin. Have you spoken with him about what has happened?

JG: Yes. Rich said this is a transitional period. You’ll go somewhere new, test new waters and test new fighters. Rich is happy for me that I was jobless less than fifteen minutes. One thing I can promise you now is that you will see my Jiu-Jitsu skills now. Period.

Q: Was part of the reason you stood in your fights so much an effort to win the fight of the night bonus?

JG: No. Never. Everyone who has ever followed my career knows that it has never been about the money. I would have been rich if I cared about the money. My school is one of the biggest schools in the country, but I make no money from it because I let everyone train for free.

I get caught up in the moment, and I always think that I am winning. But when the three rounds are over, I sometimes think that I may have lost so it hits me. That happened in the Mark Hominick fight. I totally thought I won the fight. The same thing occurred with Aaron Riley. I didn’t realize I was in trouble until the fight was over.

Q: You mentioned the Riley and Hominick fights. Did you disagree with the decision of the judges in those fights?

JG: I definitely disagreed on the Mark Hominick fight. I knew it was my fight. Right after that fight not only did Mark Hominick get released but they changed the rules. If you’re a fighter in the UFC and you turn your back from the combat and run away even if only for one second, you automatically get one point deducted. Mark ran in the fight four straight times. Not only did he run, he sprinted. I should have brought my Nike shoes to keep up with him. I like Mark a lot, but I thought I beat him in the fight. I’m not a sore loser though. I thought Riley razor thinned me in the second and third rounds.

Q: One of the guys who has looked very good coming from your training camp is Dustin Hazelett. His Jiu-Jitsu has been off the charts. Are you responsible for some of his growth?

JG: I’m responsible for all of that brother. He’s my kid. He’s my black belt. Dustin is the ultimate student. He has no ego whatsoever. He’s always willing to learn. When I learn new things, the first person I teach is Dustin. He’s always up for learning. If I say to do something one hundred times, he does it one hundred times. Dustin Hazelett made himself what he is from believing in his coach and having one of the greatest work ethics outside of myself and Rich Franklin. Dustin is a submission master. I am very proud of what he’s accomplished.

Q: Will you still be cornering your guys with the UFC?

JG: Of course. I don’t think the UFC dislikes me at all. Rich Franklin will be cornering me at Strikeforce, and I’ll be cornering him with the UFC.

Q: What do you think about Rich’s upcoming fight with Dan Henderson?

JG: I think Rich Franklin is Rich Franklin, and he always finds a way to win. He’s going to be fine.

Q: Did you speak with any other organizations at all? Or was it Strikeforce only?

JG: That is the first time someone has asked me this question. When I thought the release was possible, I spoke with my manager Monte to make sure things were set. He got in touch with Strikeforce because Strikeforce has good relations with the UFC. Apparently, Dana and the UFC do not like Affliction. I do not want to go to a place that the UFC does not like and have the possibility of getting black-listed. Strikeforce was the first option. Right off the bat, Monte called Strikeforce, and they asked Monte if we were shopping around at all. Monte said that he does not want to. He did not want to put me out on the market. He just wanted me to be happy, and he felt I’d be happy at Strikeforce.

Mike (Afromowitz) called me, and he was very excited. He was very nice to me. He paid attention to everything I said. We did an interview and a press release the very same day I was released. They offered a great contract right off the bat, and I was more than happy with it.

Q: With this being a crazy past few days, do you have an idea of where you see yourself in the next year or so?

JG: I don’t look too far in the future. I think the next 200 yards. The next thing is to rehab my elbow and get back into fighting shape. After that, I want to schedule a fight with Strikeforce. I want to find an opponent, a location, and a date. All I know is that in two years, I will still be fighting. Hopefully, I’ll have a world title with Strikeforce or someone else. If not that, I want to be fighting for a title. Maybe I’ll be back in the UFC. Who knows? I have a lot of fight in me. Fighting is what motivates to get up every morning. I am very re-energized to get going.

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