Jorge Gurgel: Listen and Learn

Jorge Gurgel’s desire to please his bosses in the UFC with exciting fights ultimately got him fired.

“I was sick of not performing up to my expectations. I know how I can fight. All my students know,” said Gurgel of his 3-4 UFC record. He claims a rebirth is on this horizon this Friday when he battles Conor Heun at Strikeforce Challengers live from the ShoWare Center in Kent, Washington on Showtime.

The damage suffered in his fights – a broken jaw, blood in his urine – didn’t prompt the change. The effect it has had on his body, that Gurgel is “32 going on 50” as his best friend and most famous student Rich Franklin likes to say – that wasn’t it either.

After a soul-searching surf trip to his native Brazil following his dismissal from the UFC, a friend explained losing with a crowd-pleasing style depressed fans and students more than it excited them. It was the first of two revelations that prompted a rebirth.

During his last UFC bout, Gurgel realized he was listening to his corner man Mark DellaGrotte—the first time he’s listened to his corner man in his entire nine-year career—and said so out loud.

“Good, you should,” said DellaGrotte.

Gurgel chalks it up to being a late bloomer. He still plans to fight with every ounce of his being, hospitalization looming or not. Play it safe? He insists he’s more likely to get seriously hurt in training or walking down the street.

“If I was [UFC matchmaker] Joe Silva, I would have cut myself too,” he said, pointing out he disappointed himself and everyone else with his showings even in victory. “With my second chance, I’m actually ready to perform the way I know I can perform.”

That’s the gameplan for Strikeforce—perform. And Gurgel asserts he’s sticking to it. With excitement in his voice, he comments the main benefit of fighting in Strikeforce versus the UFC is pacing. He wants to fight as much as possible, parlaying it into a title run for Strikeforce.

If he’s healthy after Heun — which has never been the case after his fights — Gurgel wants to fight on Strikeforce’s August 15th Showtime card. He’s not worried about “Hurricane” because he expects that Heun won’t stand and will instead try to take the fight to the ground. Gurgel welcomes that, willing to fight anywhere, perhaps making the transition form single-minded fighter to mixed martial artist.

“Stubbornness got me where I am today,” according to Gurgel. But the willingness to listen and learn is what will allow him to succeed in the future. Gurgel believes his change in perspective will manifest itself in a physical, aggressive, dominant yet technical version of himself—a fighter he’s excited to meet.

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