In his younger years, Gegard Mousasi was introduced to judo by his father.
In retrospect, Mousasi, who was born in Iran but made Holland his new home at age eight, admitted that he viewed judo as more of a hobby than a legitimate career prospect.
When Mousasi was first acquainted with boxing several years later, however, his ambitions—and the way he approached martial arts—changed dramatically.
“I was pretty good at [judo] as a kid, but it wasn’t anything serious,” Mousasi, 26, recounted. “At 15, I went to boxing. That’s when I really wanted to be a champion, so that gave me a goal in life, so it kept me focused on training instead of other things.”
Within a few years of taking to boxing—in which time the young pugilist had already established himself as one of the Netherlands’ brightest young prospects on the canvas—Mousasi once again switched his focus as a martial artist.
“I believe [I began training as a mixed martial artist] when I was 17, when I saw my brother doing some grappling,” Mousasi recalled.
“I always thought I would be a boxing champion. I never thought I would end up in MMA, but as I got older, I realized that [being a] boxing champion was something that maybe would have never happened, so MMA was the right choice.”
Although he admitted that he didn’t necessarily have any lofty aspirations when he began focusing his efforts on mixed martial arts—“just to fight; it wasn’t like I wanted to be an MMA champion or something like that,” Mousasi offered—he quickly found success in the sport.
After making his professional mixed martial arts debut in the summer of 2003, Mousasi won 12 of his first 14 bouts before showcasing his talents in Japan under the PRIDE FC banner in June 2006.
Looking back, Mousasi claimed that he started to believe he could potentially excel in the sport when he began competing in Japan.
Mousasi, as it turned out, was on to something.
Since his time in PRIDE FC—where Mousasi won two of his three matches—the man they call “The Dreamcatcher” has registered notable victories over Mark Hunt, Hiroshi Izumi, Denis Kang, Melvin Manhoef, Renato Sobral and Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou en route to claiming championships under the Cage Warrior, DREAM FC and Strikeforce banners.
According to Mousasi, who is to return to action against Mike Kyle at Strikeforce: Tate vs. Rousey on March 3, he intends on walking away from mixed martial arts within half-a-decade—“at 30, I am gone,” he offered.
While some argue that Mousasi is, perhaps, overlooked for not competing in the UFC’s Octagon, that view doesn’t necessarily bother DREAM FC’s reigning light heavyweight champion.
“I don’t find these things [like being overlooked by fans] important at all anymore,” noted Mousasi. “I am [at] a stage that I just fight; I don’t have any desire to prove something to someone or get recognition.”
Moreover, Mousasi, who is hoping to represent the Netherlands as an amateur boxer at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, doesn’t believe he will regret not getting the chance to showcase his talents in the UFC if he ultimately doesn’t get the opportunity.
"At this moment, not really," Mousasi offered.
[This interview was conducted via email. In the interest of clarity, some of Gegard Mousasi's quotations have been edited for punctuation and, in some cases, grammar.]
Ed Kapp is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations were obtained first-hand.