Journeyman Fernando “The Menifee Maniac” Gonzalez (23-13 MMA, 3-0 Bellator) has been on a hot streak since he stepped into the Bellator cage, defeating Karl Amoussou, Karo Parysian and former Dream welterweight champion Marius Zaromskis. Now the seasoned veteran takes on prospect Curtis Millender on the main card of Bellator 137, May 15 at Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, Calif.
Gonzalez, who made his MMA debut back in 2003 and has fought in various regional and top promotions, took some time out of his Friday training schedule to talk to MMA Latest’s Al Stover about his bout with Millender.
Fernando Gonzalez: How’s it going Al?
Al Stover: Good Fernando, how are you doing?
FG: I’m good.
AS: Right on. It’s a good weekend for sports overall, mostly combat sports. You have a big fight coming up at Bellator 137 against Curtis Millender. How is camp going for you?
FG: It’s going great. I’m training hard and working on all the things I need to get done before the fight in order to get the victory.
AS: You’re going for your fourth victory. I did a little bit of research, and you’ve fought regionally and in some big promotions. You’ve for in WEC and Strikeforce. What was it like making the transition to Bellator? Not to say that Strikeforce wasn’t big but Bellator is kind of “the show.”
FG: The difference between making the debut for Bellator and for Strikeforce is that for Stirkeforce I took that fight (against Eddie Mendez) on two weeks notice. For Bellator I’ve more time to train for fights and the competition is big. It makes me train harder, not just the opponents that are in front of me but for the ones that will come in the future. I’m always training hard and I’m training my butt off to get better every day.
AS: That’s good to hear. Your last fight was against Marius Zaromskis. He was a world champion in Dream and a tough guy. You’ve got Millender coming up. Are you making any specific adjustments to your fight camp to prepare for him or is it just business are usual?
FG: I try to train for everything. You never know what’s going to happen in a fight. It could be going my way, it could not be going my way. So whatever happens. If it goes to the ground, I’m training to get back up and get into a better position. If I keep it standing I’ll train to avoid his big shots and make sure I’m countering, catching and doing what I need to do to knock him out. He may get injured — I pray not — and my opponent changes. I just try to prepare myself for any scenario.
AS: The injury comes up for any event. You’re going to be in California — your home state — it’s going to be close to home for you.
FG: Oh yeah. I train at Dan Henderson’s Athletic Fitness Center, which is 10 minutes away from the Pechanga Resort and Casino. I grew up in the area and I have a lot of family and friends who came out and support it. It’s great. I love being able to fight for Bellator and being able to compete against some of the best guys in the world and they’re bringing them here to my home. It makes it easier for me. I get to train and sleep in my own bed and enjoy every moment. The talk leading up to the fight pumps me up.
AS: Yeah. They’re coming to your house, your domain if you will. You’ve got a milage on you — in a good way. Over the years, what changes have you noticed in mixed martial arts?
FG: The sport is still evolving in a lot of ways. Primarily the style is one thing. Before you had fighters who were good in jiu-jitsu, kickboxing or wrestling. In the last couple of years you’ve had guys putting everything together like how to throw strikes while doing a takedown. That type of game is a lot more tiring but it’s a lot more fun. If you don’t know what you’re doing you’re going to get hurt. It’ going quick. A lot of guys are getting good really fast.
AS: Do you find yourself mentoring younger fighters or giving them advice? Do they come to you?
FG: I have my own school and work with my own guys. I try to help them out with things that bothered me when I was just starting my career. One of the biggest things that people have trouble with are the long layoffs. If you don’t stay busy then you’re not going to be comfortable. You can be the best fighter in the world but if you have anywhere from six months to a year off, you’re going to go into the cage with those nerves. That’s just part of it. The more consistent we stay, the more easier it comes and those nerves won’t be a big factor.
AS: Right. While you don’t want to look ahead and take your focus off of your opponent, where do you see yourself after this fight? Are you hoping for a title shot after this? Maybe after a couple of more wins.
FG: I don’t put that type of pressure on myself because if it doesn’t happen, then I’ll be disappointed. For me, my biggest goal was to make it to a big-name stage like Bellator and compete against these guys. There’s a saying that’s stuck with me over the years. “Just win ball games, the rest will take care of itself.” I apply that to my fighting. I’m just winning my fights. If I win my fights, everything else will take care of itself and the belt will be there when I need it to be there. Everything is kind of going the way I want it to be. Curtis Millender is a tough opponent and I don’t think he got to show the world what he could do in his last fight and I think that’s what he’s trying to do for this one. He’s going to try to make a statement when he faces me. It’s going to be one hell of a fight. I’m prepared for it. I’m pumped and ready to get my hands on him.
AS: Is there anyone you want to thank? Any shoutouts you want to give?
FG: I want to give a shout out to my team at Dan Henderson’s Athletic Fitness Center, they push me and get me ready for these fights. A lot of guys have been in here helping me. Clinch Gear and Boosters, who have been helping me with my gear and my chiropractor who has been helping me since fifth grade.
AS: Thank you Fernando. Good luck and have a great weekend.