From the very first time that Las Vegas native Ulysses Gomez watched the UFC, he knew that he was destined to fight in the famed Octagon. However, there was a catch. Gomez is a flyweight, and until recently, the promotion did not have a 125-pound division.
Now, in 2012, the promotion has opened its doors to the high-paced fighters. And although Gomez was not immediately called into action, his opportunity will come against John Moraga at UFC on Fox 4 on Aug. 4.
“It’s kind of surreal,” Gomez told The MMA Corner in an exclusive interview. “[This is] basically everything I’ve ever wanted to do. It’s an honor to even be called by the UFC.”
While the Cobra Kai-trained fighter was happy to hear from the promotion, he experienced a roller coaster of emotions because he was only given two weeks to prepare for the bout.
“At first, I was terrified when I got the call because it was short notice,” admitted Gomez. “But once it was officially announced, I went from being terrified to being excited; all the nerves were pushed aside. Now I’m ready to go.”
Now, as Gomez prepares for his promotional debut against fellow newcomer Moraga, the former multi-divisional Tachi Palace champion sees the fight as a win-win situation.
“The good thing about taking a short-notice fight is that I don’t have time to be nervous,” declared Gomez. “The way I look at it is that I have nothing to lose in this fight. I’m going to go out there and perform to the best of my abilities.”
“I kind of like the situation. It’s just a fight. There’s people that go out there, do a full camp, and get knocked out in the first minute. So at least I don’t have to worry about that,” joked Gomez. “I literally only had one week to train. It’s the worst-case scenario because it’s short notice, but it’s the best-case scenario at the same time.”
One of the biggest perks for Gomez as he enters the biggest promotion in the world is that he’ll no longer have to compete outside of his natural weight class. As he enters his fifth year as a professional fighter, the man known as “Useless” had actually stopped worrying about when his time on the biggest stage would come.
“I thought I was going to get signed back in 2008 or 2009 when the WEC announced they were doing flyweights,” Gomez recalled. “Then the UFC absorbed the WEC and created the division, so I thought it would be any day now. That didn’t happen, so I started looking for fights because it didn’t look like they were signing a lot of people. Once I had that mindset, I got the call.”
Although it took a little longer than he would’ve liked, Gomez has a theory as to why the promotion didn’t rush to sign a ton of flyweights.
“I think a lot of the reason has to do with guys currently on the roster at 135 or 145 pounds that may be dropping down,” he explained. “I think once guys start losing and they have roster space, they’ll sign more guys. It’s just a matter of numbers.”
Gomez’s first fight with the promotion will air live on Fuel TV. And like most of his career thus far, he’ll be fighting in California. Even with the added exposure, the fighter’s focus is clear.
“It’s great [fighting on Fuel],” said the grappling ace. “When they called, I asked if I could fight in Vegas because it’s my hometown, but it doesn’t really matter. What it boils down to is that it’s just me and [Moraga] in there.”
With the pool of talented flyweights still growing, it’s no surprise that Gomez is familiar with his opponent.
“He fought one of my friends about a month ago, so I actually know quite a bit about him,” said Gomez. “Also, I’m friends with his trainer because we used to be training partners back in the day.”
“John and I crossed paths back in January after the Strikeforce event in Las Vegas, and afterwards I was joking that one of these days we were going to fight. Now, here we are in our UFC debuts. It’s kind of funny how stuff like that works out.”
So what does Gomez think about the fight in the cage on Saturday night?
“I think because of my submission attack, he will try to keep it on the feet,” stated Gomez. “If he takes me down, I’m comfortable with that too. But what I think will happen, and what actually happens, sometimes are two very different things.”
One thing is certain for Gomez: when the cage door shuts for his 12th professional fight, the 29-year-old’s journey is just beginning.
“I want to be the champion,” proclaimed Gomez. “It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I first watched the UFC. Not just to be in the UFC, [but] to win in the UFC and eventually get the belt. This is the first step toward my goal.”
Top Photo: Ulysses Gomez (red and white shorts) scores with a takedown (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)