Often criticized but always exciting, Jorge Gurgel makes his return to the cage Friday night, Feb. 28, at Titan Fighting Championships 27 against fellow The Ultimate Fighter alum Mike Ricci.

This will be the 37-year-old’s first outing since dropping a hard-fought decision to Adriano Martins in January of 2013 at the final event held under the Strikeforce banner. Thirteen months is a long time to be away from the cage, especially for a fighter who has been in the game as long as Gurgel. But make no mistake, the layoff was not a retirement.

Gurgel (L) (Jerry Chavez/The MMA Corner)

Gurgel (L) (Jerry Chavez/The MMA Corner)

“I took a little break. People thought I was retiring. My manager thought I was retiring,” Gurgel told The MMA Corner in an exclusive interview. “I just built this new facility. We moved to a 21,000 square foot facility in Cincinnati, Ohio, and it needed my attention. I had the girls at Invicta, I had three guys in the UFC and three more guys in Bellator. My mom, who is my hero, said, ‘Jorge, you gotta train your fighters. They are there for you. They need you. If you do not train them personally—if you are not there for them and take a little break from fighting yourself—you are not going to give them a fair chance.’”

At 14-9, Gurgel’s record will not jump out and grab your attention, but his ability to put on an exciting fight certainly will. That doesn’t keep the detractors from criticizing him. Fans and pundits alike constantly bring up Gurgel’s propensity to stand and bang rather than putting his high-level Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu on display.

“I’m not going to dwell in the past,” Gurgel said. “I have nine losses, and five of them were extremely controversial. I never really got beat up by anyone. It was always decision here, decision here, a close decision, a split decision. I have nothing to prove to anyone.

“I want to show everyone the best Jorge Gurgel. The only person I need to answer to every day is the person in the mirror. I fight because I am a fighter and I love to fight. I do not have my back against the wall. I don’t have plans to go back to the UFC and make a run at the title. I don’t think that way. I want to fight, and I have nothing to prove to a single soul, which makes me a very dangerous man. On the 28th, I plan on showing everyone what I am really capable of doing.”

Against Ricci, Gurgel is going to have to be the best he has ever been. Ricci, a Tristar product, is long, lean and quick. He knows how to utilize the jab to keep his opponents off-balance, and he has shown over the course of his career that he is a finisher.

“The goal is to beat up Mike Ricci, and that is what I am going to do,” said Gurgel. “I’m going out to win impressively. I don’t fight to win rounds. I’m bringing the fight to Mike Ricci. I’m going to turn it into a dogfight, and he better be ready for one because there’s not enough room in that cage for him to be running from me for 15 minutes.”

Gurgel (Jerry Chavez/The MMA Corner)

Gurgel (Jerry Chavez/The MMA Corner)

A dogfight doesn’t mean Gurgel will be fighting reckless, however.

“I’ve neglected my biggest asset, which is not my ground game—it’s my intelligence,” Gurgel admitted. “I develop game plans. I’ve created a form that has helped to create world champions, and I never use it. I’ve always been the coach that says, ‘Do as I say, not do as I do.’ I develop great game plans and great fight camps—why can I not use this for myself? So, I am going to use my intelligence. I’m going to fight smart. I know exactly how he fights, and I’m going to make him very uncomfortable.”

Fighting is just a small part of who Gurgel is, though. He is a man with a vision and a purpose. Although he is a good fighter, Gurgel knows that his legacy will not be comprised of his own in-cage accomplishments, but rather the lasting impact he has left on the sport through his students.

“I have over 1,000 students [and] I have 13 affiliate schools,” Gurgel explained. “I’m going to be 80 years old in my rocking chair watching fighters all over the world fighting with the ‘JG’ logo on their shorts. It’s not about me. My legacy is to change peoples lives for the better through martial arts. That’s what I was put on this earth to do.”

With nothing left to prove, Gurgel will enter the cage Friday night focused on only one thing: winning.

Jorge would like to thank his family, his students and his fans, plus everyone who has supported him. He adds, “Come check out our new facility. Go to ohiomma.com or teamjorgegurgel.com. We are giving three-weeks free trial of BJJ, boxing, crossfit, anything you want. Just go to the website. We have 21,000 square feet. If we don’t have it, you don’t need it.” Follow Gurgel on Twitter: @JorgeGurgel

About The Author

RJ Gardner
Content Coordinator

RJ Gardner is a rabid sports fan and a long time MMA enthusiast. After watching UFC 1 at ripe old age of 11 RJ was hooked and his passion for the sport has continued to blossom over the years. RJ has been covering MMA since 2007 and has had work featured on Bleacher Report, SI.com, CBSSports.com and UFC.com. RJ is also a Petroleum Transportation Operations Manager during the day.