With many talented fighters gracing the cage of the UFC’s ranks, it is easy to come across world-class talent for each bout that takes place.
The UFC’s heavyweight division is now stronger than it ever has been, with acquisitions from Pride, Affliction, the IFL, and new talents emerging from gyms around the world.
Gilbert Yvel is a fighter who has entered the arena for several top promotions such as Pride, Affliction, and now entering the big show with the Ultimate Fighting Championships.
Gilbert spoke openly about his career, his changing approach to his fighting career, and realizing his dream of competing in the top ranks of the UFC’s heavyweight division.
Coming from the hotbed of Muay Thai strikers, Gilbert hails from the Netherlands, and described the difference in training compared to that in the US.
“It’s basically the same as the wrestling," Yvel said. "The wrestling here in the states is so good here because everyone wrestles and in Holland the Muay Thai is good because everyone does Muay Thai.”
When asked about his first invitation to compete in Pride, Yvel recalled the experience fondly. After becoming the RINGS champion in Japan, he was offered an opportunity with Pride and jumped at the chance.
“Pride was great, at that time it was the biggest show there was,” he said.
Despite his great experiences, Gilbert explained he was not ready, then, to fight at that level.
“I think it was better for me at that time to take it slow and build myself up, we didn’t know a lot about the show, the way of fighting (In Pride) we just went for it,” he said.
Yvel said he feels that his performance in Pride against Gary “Big Daddy” Goodridge, was his finest fight in the Pride organization. He landed a single high kick on his opponent at the start of the fight and immediately knocked him out.
Yvel had told his manager at the time not to worry that he would “go in there kick him in his head and its over.” When asked about his prediction coming true, Yvel said, “the power of visualization is really strong and even if you don’t think about what you say at that moment then it happens and it’s amazing.”
Affliction was the next home for Yvel, but unfortunately it was a short stay, due to the promotion folding before its third fight card could be held. Yvel was scheduled to face heavyweight Paul Buentello at Affliction 3, but sadly never got to compete.
Yvel spoke honestly about the fold of the promotion and his opinion about what transpired.
“The week before my second fight they didn’t even call me or my manager; my roommate called me and said the Affliction show is banned its cancelled," he said. "I’m not really happy with Affliction. I trained for four months and they really left me with a bad taste in my mouth.”
Between his fight falling through with Affliction and a single bout against Pedro “The Rock” Rizzo (won by KO), Yvel had a short layoff from fighting.
“I let my guard down and started relaxing more and training less, then came the call in from the UFC and we only had a month to train,” Yvel said.
The fight he was taking on short notice was his first outing in the UFC against rookie sensation Junior Dos Santos.
“We went training but I had no sparring partners, I went into the fight really nervous because this is the UFC the dream place that you work all your life for, and before you know it I was standing in the cage," Yvel said. "That moment for me maybe went too fast, too much and I got nervous and I just went in and had my hands too low and got knocked out.”
With Yvel's upcoming bout at UFC 115 against former IFL heavyweight Ben Rothwell, he said that he feels as though his training has completely changed.
“I got three months training in and it was a lot of time to prepare ourselves and I’m really ready for this fight now," he said. "I learned to be more calm, to be relaxed and I’m going to take my time and I’m prepared. “
When asked about the dangers with facing Rothwell, he added: “Ben is cautious and heavy, strong guy, and when he hits you it can obviously be a knockout. For me, I have to be smart and not get into a brawl. I have to be smart.”
With a skilled background and a new-found determination, we look forward to witnessing Yvel's exciting style inside the octagon at UFC 115 this Saturday night on pay-per-view.