Back in the middle part of the 2000’s, when Japanese mixed martial arts was entering its twilight years, hardcore fight fans were talking about a Dutch fighter taking Japan by storm. His demeanor was stoic. He was lanky and thin but when the bell rung he was ruthless. He even has one of the coolest monikers in the sport: the Dreamcatcher. An enigma and a prodigy. He is Gegard Mousasi
Journey to the Dream
Gegard Mousasi is a martial arts prodigy. Even before cross-discipline training became a trend, Mousasi was doing it just as a hobby. “I love martial arts. It thought me discipline. I can’t wait for school to end just so I go to the gym,” he recalled with a smile on his face.
At the young age of eight, Gegard was already training in the art of judo, and through his teenage years, transitioned to boxing. A year later, he fought in the amateur boxing scene and compiled a 12-1 record. After seven years, he then moved on to take kickboxing, the biggest martial art in the Netherlands. As the years went by, the thirst for competition made Mousasi transition into mixed martial arts.
“The Dreamcatcher” took Japan by storm in 2008. At the young age of 22, Mousasi rapidly rose to the top of the MMA scene. In the now defunct DREAM promotion, he breezed through the promotion’s middleweight gran prix and finished all his opponents in two rounds or less. His victims was a murderer’s row that included Denis Kang, Melvin Manhoef, and Ronaldo Souza. Moreover, he also fought in the kickboxing promotion, K-1, and defeated Japanese kickboxing legend Musashi to further gain the respect of the martial arts community.
Japan also gave him the opportunity to know and train MMA legend Fedor Emelianenko, one of the greatest MMA fighters of all time. “It was a good experience since he’s a good guy and he’s a really great fighter. He thought me a lot of stuff like Sambo, also the way to fight, and represent myself outside the cage.”
In 2009, Gegard Mousasi was signed by an American promotion, Strikeforce, and eventually won the promotion’s Light Heavyweight championship in his debut match. Everything was going well for the Dutch-Iranian fighter and compiled a record of 28-2-1. But in the United States, having a wrestling base was the most important facet in the game. During Strikeforce’s biggest show in Nashville, Tennessee last 2010, former NCAA division 1 champion “King” Muhammad Lawal exposed the lack of wrestling defense of Mousasi. Mousasi was devastated after the loss. “Since the King Mo loss, I’ve changed a lot wrestling. But overall, I’ve been changing a lot, changing a whole lot leading to more losses. I went to my roots after and trained like I’ve been training before.”
Instead of sulking, Mousasi trained harder than ever. Even winning another championship in Japan, the DREAM Light Heavyweight championship to become a two-division champion, a rare feat in MMA. “[As a result of that loss] I know MMA better now. I’ve transitioned to more ground, wrestling [take downs], I know better now than when I fought King Mo. I’m more experienced now, I’m smarter.” Eventually, Mousasi again went through the MMA circuit and won seven of his eight fights with one ending in a controversial draw.
Recapturing the Dream
After years of failed negotiations and at the latter months of 2013, the world’s biggest MMA promotion the UFC finally signed the Dreamcatcher. Mousasi, before entering the UFC, vowed never to make middleweight unless he was going against Anderson Silva. But logically, it did not make sense when Mousasi thought about it, “The weight difference was still too big. I was not cutting a lot of weight to 205 and the guys were much bigger in the UFC. And the level was so much higher at light heavyweight, I should not give advantage to my opponents. Middleweight is much suited for me and I’m gonna continue as middleweight.”
Even in compiling a 3-2 record in the UFC, Gegard is still one of the most feared fighters in the middleweight division. His opponent for UFC Fight Night Manila, Costas Philippou, told us that “he is very dangerous because he is a veteran.” Even at a relatively young age of 29, he is considered as one of the most veteran fighters in the division, especially with his 36-5-2 record. However for Mousasi, and just like for everyone else, the toll of fighting is already taking its effect on his body. “I have more injuries now here and there. Something swells up, I did not have that when I was younger, you feel it,” the former multi-division MMA champion said laughingly.
Garnering 43 fights into his career, Gegard Mousasi has not lost the competitive fire he had when he was a kid. He knows what he wants right now and is ready to take it. “At the end of one’s career sometimes people climb down but I feel like I was climbing down a little bit. [But still entering the prime of his career] I still think I can switch to go one more time up and peak again. Some fighters like Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson, when their career is not going so well, changed division and went up. Like Vitor Belfort was a guy who did it. I feel like I’m gonna do that. Just have a good couple of years and be dominant again.”
Moreover, outside the cage, the Dutch fighter, even at a young age, is already ready for life outside the Octagon. “I’m ready for it. I invest my money for my family. I bought buildings, apartments to have it rented so money is no big deal, not a problem.”
Truly, at the age of 29, Gegard Mousasi has matured, not only as fighter, but also as a person. Talent will only get you by for so long but with discipline and hard work it can lead you to the farthest possibilities. “The Dreamcatcher” has realized this and will look to catch his dream of going back to the top of the mountain starting with Costas Philippou come Saturday night.
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