Former Combate Americas champion Erick Gonzalez is looking to secure a UFC contract in his next outing.
“Ghost Pepper” returned to the cage earlier this year under the Naciones MMA banner, picking up his third straight win dating back to his Combate days. The fight was Gonzalez’s first in over a year, but the time away didn’t seem to hold him back in the least.
“There really wasn’t too much ring rust. Even though COVID was happening, everybody on my team was doing a really good job of staying clean,” Gonzalez told Cageside Press in an exclusive interview ahead of his next bout, at LXF 5. “We were getting tested monthly, on a monthly basis, and we were training five to six days a week.”
In fact, COVID had an upside — he wasn’t working what he calls his “side hustle” as a bar tender, which would normally have him occupied for up to five or six days a week. “It actually created a lot more time for me in the gym, surprisingly. I thought it would be the opposite effect, because gyms were closing down, I didn’t know what was going on with our gym.”
Gonzalez has been fighting more than a minute now. And the pressure is on to make that step up to the big leagues. He knows that the pressure is on, especially given he has a solid record, but Gonzalez also noted that “I live up to every expectation.”
The expectation now is to win his LXF 5 fight against Samuel Alvarez. “I have to win this fight. I think securing this bag and securing this win will do a lot of justice for me to get to the big show,” said Gonzalez. “My goal is UFC, I’m not really going to try to settle for Bellator, even though Bellator’s an amazing performance, I watch it all the time. But UFC is what my calling is. I’ve been working at it, I told myself I’d make the UFC before I hit 30, I’m 29, about to hit 30 next year.”
That puts Gonzalez in a time crunch, he admitted, “but at the same time, it’s not going to stop me. Whether I make it at the age of 30, or if I make it this year, securing this win I think is going to be a big one for me.” Gonzalez is looking to make a statement, to pull off a “fashionably dominant win. I want to knock this guy out. We’re doing everything we can to prepare for it, I know what to expect from this guy. It’s going to be a great fight overall, but I just don’t see him winning from anywhere. I’m there to secure the win, I won’t settle for anything less than that.”
Watch our full interview with Erick Gonzalez a.k.a. “Ghost Pepper” ahead of LXF 5 above. The event takes place Saturday, August 7 at the Commerce Casino in Commerce, California.