Cageside Press caught up with Erick “Ghost Pepper” Gonzalez ahead of his fight with The Korean Gangster on April 26 in Los Angeles.
Coming off an impressive first-round victory over Alejandro Martinez, one would imagine that Erick “Ghost Pepper” Gonzalez would be taking at least some time off before getting back in the cage. Instead, he returns just over a month later to take on “The Korean Gangster” Won Sik Park at Combate Americas: Reinas on April 26 in Los Angeles. While most fighters take time to recuperate and celebrate a successful battle in the cage, Gonzalez explained why it wasn’t the case following the fight in Monterrey.
“My last fight was actually a short-notice fight. I didn’t get hurt, I didn’t get any injuries so why take time off? It’s my hometown where better to fight?”
Starting out the year in dominant fashion was exactly what he needed to wash the end of 2018 out of his system. In September, he made his featherweight debut in a special one-round fight against Andres Quintana for the chance to compete in the Copa Combate. Quintana, who went on to win the tournament in December, submitted Gonzalez within several minutes. Gonzalez, already a lean lightweight, admits that the decision to cut the extra ten pounds to make 145 was simply the wrong one.
“I just didn’t feel at my best. I didn’t enjoy it. It was brutal. It made me hate fighting. Going through that, and then in the fight, I wasn’t as sharp. I didn’t have the right thought process to react instinctively. It had an effect on the way I think in there, on top of the fact that it was only a five-minute fight which is unheard of, all that together just played a part and I made a mistake and it cost me the fight.”
Gonzalez, 9-3, typically competes in the lightweight division and has been with Combate Americas since 2016. Over the years, he has become one of the most exciting and reliable performers for the growing promotion and has been a featured fighter as the company has gone from airing on Fight Pass, Telemundo, Univision, and now DAZN. With so much MMA in 2019, one can sometimes lose track of all the up-and-coming fighters in the sport. For fans who have never seen “Ghost Pepper” in action, he can tell you exactly what you have missed.
“I’d say I’m a blend of Tony Ferguson and Nate Diaz. I’m a very aggressive fighter. Ferguson just has this wild, unorthodox way of fighting where he’ll go for elbows and knees and I’m a big fan of that. Then with Diaz cardio, aggressiveness and wanting to go out there and put on a show. They’re phenomenal fighters and I know when I go in there that the fans are entertained.”
He has fought eight times under the banner, accumulating five victories and avenging one of his three losses. Currently, he is tied with undefeated Rafa Garcia for the most victories in the Combate Americas lightweight division and a victory in Los Angeles would set the 27-year-old contender apart. On being tied with Garcia, Gonzalez said:
“Rafa is held to a high standard because he is undefeated. I’m not too worried about taking the “winningest” spot. I’m just looking to go out there and do what I do, let other people worry about the numbers. As far as Rafa goes, maybe I’ll see him eventually in a title fight in the future. But 155 is gonna be my spot for sure.”
For now, Gonzalez has the task of facing the experienced Won Sik Park, aka “The Korean Gangster”. Park (13-7-1) had an authoritative victory in his Combate Americas debut last November over José Medrano in what was his first fight in over two years. Gonzalez is aware of the challenges Park presents, but believes the layoff may also play a factor in their contest.
“I watched his last fight, when he got rocked he stayed composed. I’m not worried about his striking too much. He seems like he’s going to be a powerful guy and I respect his game. I’m not worried about his past fights too much. He did take two years off which is a long time to be off. It’s not like taking a month off and coming back, it’s two years.”
While his fight career is doing well, Gonzalez is also building a whole other enterprise as a streamer on Twitch. The two worlds blend well, fans of his fighting find his streaming and vice-versa. He has also celebrated with “The L Dance” from Fortnite after scoring finishes inside the cage. But professional streaming is a time commitment in-and-of itself. Fans seek content on a daily basis and being absent leads to drops in viewers which ultimately hurt a creator’s bottom line. On the other hand, missing time in the gym can be hazardous to one’s health when they’re a professional cage fighter as well. So, how does Gonzalez balance the two?
“I stay up late at night. My girlfriend gets mad sometimes but she’s a great sport about it. I’m at home, I’m not going out and drinking. So I’m keeping myself out of trouble. It provides a great platform for me to just be myself and chill out. I love being a part of it. It keeps me busy: training, come home to stream, go to my other job, and repetition. It’s slowly growing. I do stream for an organization out of Vegas, the Las Vegas MiniGunners. They’re a big support and do a lot of stuff for me for my fighting”
Inside the cage is simple: Take out “The Korean Gangster” and perhaps Rafa Garcia is in his future when the belt is on the line in a big money fight. Outside the cage, Gonzalez has his ideal opponent for a battle on Fortnite, and it involves one of the top young upstarts in the UFC. “I’d like to hit-up Sean O’Malley. I heard he’s a gamer. So I’d like to take him on in a little Fortnite competition.”
Erick “Ghost Pepper” Gonzalez will face “The Korean Gangster” Won Sik Park at Combate Americas: Reinas on April 26, live at the Galen Center in Los Angeles.