UFC on FX 4: Joey Gambino Talks High School Football, UFC Phone Call and More
We've all dreamed of making it big at some point in our lives.
Whether it is imitating Michael Jordan's game-winning shot in the 1998 NBA Finals in the driveway or simply daydreaming about making millions—we all have dreams. Many times, these dreams never become reality, no matter how hard we try.
This isn't the case for UFC newcomer Joey Gambino, who saw his dream come true when his phone rang at midnight on May 22nd. Minutes later, Gambino was bouncing around on his living room couch, having received the news that he is now employed by one of the world's fastest growing promotions in the UFC.
In a recent interview with Bleacher Report, Gambino discussed that memorable night and more.
Garrett Derr: Joey, you've had a ton of success so far in your career. At what moment did you know this is what you wanted to do for the rest of your life, or at least for a while?
Joey Gambino: When I was growing up, I always loved MMA. I used to watch it with my brother all the time. I loved watching Shamrock and Gracie and so forth and so on. But, I was the captain of the football team and the captain of the wrestling team. I was always active and doing something.
I use Matt Hughes as an example. He was a wrestler who still had a lot of success inside the Octagon. Being able to see him make it as far as he did, sold me. I'm a wrestler, I'm a competitor, I love competition, and I love contact. I said I'd definitely be able to do that. I always wanted to do it and here I am.
GD: You're off to a perfect 9-0 start to your professional career. What has been the key to your perfection inside the cage up until this point in your career?
JG: I'd definitely say my cardio has been the game-changer. I'd also say my ground-and-pound. My standup has improved tremendously, but my cardio is great. I've always pushed the pace of my fights hard and outlasted my opponent and put them on the ground. When I put them on the ground, I put on as much damage as possible.
As you've seen in a lot of my fights, I do that early on. I want to get in there and get the fight over with. I never want to give my opponent the chance for a comeback or give them any chance of catching me in a submission.
GD: So, Jimy Hettes was set to take on Steven Siler at UFC on FX 4. As we know, Hettes got bounced because of an injury and you get the call. When did you actually find out you'd be fighting in the UFC and what was this moment like for you?
JG: It was actually 12:00 one night, I believe the 22nd. That's when I found out that I was going to be fighting. I was ecstatic and I was pumped man. My manager called me and the first thing out of my mouth was yes. I didn't know who I was fighting and I didn't know when the fight was.
I started saying yes right away. Then we started going over the details and my answer was still yes. I started walking around on the couch in circles and I was sweating. My time was finally coming and now it's my chance.
GD: I'm sure your focus is now on Siler, so breaking down his game, what areas do you see that you'll be able to pick apart when your big fight finally comes?
JG: I'll be more effective on the ground, but I believe in my standup just as much as my wrestling too. Having that background in wrestling will really help me. He's a taller opponent and he's lengthier. I'm going to work the standup and take it from there. If it goes to the ground, then it does. But, my mentality has always been, do whatever it takes to win the fight.
GD: You've had just four weeks to train for this fight. How much can you really prepare for someone in such a small amount of time?
JG: In four weeks there's not that much you can do or really changed. I've just trained the same way I've always trained. When I got the phone call that night at midnight, it was the next morning that I was all packed up and in my car, heading to Montreal to start training at Tri-Star. We started developing a game plan and pushed my cardio, because that's been one of my strongest points, so I'm always prepared to go the distance.
Obviously just like every other fighter, no one wants to go to the judge's scorecards. So, I'm going in looking for the finish. In the same sense, so is he though. I'm brand new in the UFC and he's fairly new as well. We're both at the bottom of the barrel. We need to prove ourselves. We're both going hard. I'm ready for one round, two rounds, or three rounds.
GD: You have a nickname that I've never heard before. Where did the nickname, "The Raging Warrior" originate from?
JG: In high school football, I would always be screaming at my guys and pumping them up. I always hit people as hard as I could and I played with a different type of rage that people noticed. The same thing was said about me in wrestling.
I got hit in the eye and my eye got all swelled up. I wrestled with one eye and still managed to win the fight. The only problem was that I still had three fights to win the tournament. I kept on wrestling and I ended up winning all three matches.
I finished the first fight and then they put a mask on my left eye. I got seven stitches in that eye. From that moment moving forward, they called me a warrior. The guys from football and wrestling called me warrior. I liked the sound of it, so going into MMA, that nickname seemed obvious for my career and my personality.
GD: The world is slowing become aware of who Joey Gambino is. Tell me something that the normal fan wouldn't know about you?
JG: I'm definitely with friends and family all the time. I love water and I love being anywhere near the pool. I also love to fish. Another one of my professions is tree climbing. I guess you could say that I'm a lumberjack. That's how I grew up. So that's another thing, a lot of guys can't deal with my strength inside the cage.
GD: Who would you like to thank?
JG: My older brothers for pushing me the way they did. Teaching me to never come home with my a-- beat or I would have my a-- beat by them. Definitely my parents as well.
My wrestling coach in high school was a huge influence on my life. They were all a huge motivation. One thing he said to me that still sticks with me is, "to be the best, you have to beat the best." I've always trained with that mentality.
Garrett Derr is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand.
For additional information, follow Garrett Derr on Twitter.
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