As a mixed martial artist, Manny Gamburyan has one simple—albeit ambitious—goal; before he calls it a career, the man they call "The Anvil" dreams of owning a championship belt in the UFC’s featherweight division.
Coming off a loss at the hands of Jose Aldo at WEC 51 in September of last year—Gamburyan’s first title-shot as a professional mixed martial artist—“The Anvil” is now looking to work his way to the top of the UFC’s featherweight division.
In a little more than six weeks, in what will mark the end of near nine month lay-off from professional competition, Gamburyan will face Tyson Griffin at UFC LIVE: Marquardt vs. Johnson in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Manny Gamburyan about his goal in the sport, his upcoming bout with Griffin, and the prospect of taking a run at the UFC’s featherweight championship.
What were your goals when you started in this sport?
To be a champ.
Any other goals?
Nope; to be a champ.
Why is that?
Growing up and being in the sport for many years, I realize that if you’re a true fighter, your only goal should be to be the champ.
Was there ever a time when that wavered in your mind?
You always believed in your goal?
I was believed in my goal and I still believe in my goal.
How do you feel about what you were able to accomplish in the WEC?
I feel really good. I feel really good dropping from 155 to 145. It was a good trade, but now it’s even better; we’re back in the UFC and we have our own division at 145.
How does it feel to be back in the UFC at a division that better suits you?
It feels better. I should be more focused now, I should be more prepared, and I’m ready to make it to the top again and fight for the belt, again.
How did you find out that the WEC had been absorbed by the UFC?
I thought that it would happen—sooner or later—but I didn’t think it was going to be this early and it is what it is. For me, it doesn’t matter where I fight—the WEC or the UFC—but now that I’m back in the UFC, it’s even better.
How did you react to the news?
Normal, you know? I got really happy and I called my manager and asked him if it was true or if it was a rumour and he said it was true.
Do you feel like you’re coming home to the UFC?
Most definitely. I fought with the UFC, went to the WEC, and now I’m back home.
How confident are you this time around?
Very confident—I’m very confident. I train very hard—I put hours into it every day to prepare myself for upcoming challenges.
How are you feeling going into your upcoming challenge in six weeks?
I’m feeling very great; I’m feeling very confident. I believe that he is a gamer; he has what it takes, and he’s coming out of a good camp, so I’m getting ready for that fight, trying to get a ‘W’, and move on.
What problems do you feel Tyson poses to you?
To be honest with you, he’s not going to do anything that I haven’t seen before. I’ve rolled with him—not as my training partner—but I’ve trained with him a couple times. He’s durable; he’s got good stand-up, he’s got good wrestling—but so do I. We’re going to go out there and bang.
Do you feel training with Tyson gives you any type of advantage going into your match?
Not really, because training doesn’t mean anything, you know? Somebody can get dominated during training, but this is fighting—this is real. I’m looking forward to this fight. I’m very excited for this fight.
What do you think Tyson’s game-plan will be going into this fight?
I don’t know. Whatever his game-plan is, I don’t think he’s going to stick with it—I’m sharp everywhere. That’s my game, man; if I have to stand with him and box in the Octagon then I’m down with throwing them. He’s got a good camp, so I know he’s going to be ready. I expect—100 per cent—to see the best Tyson Griffin ... He’s a very good fighter. He has a lot of good fights in the UFC, but now he’s been having some problems; he’s been losing lately and he decided that 145 is his weight-class. It’s not an easy cut, though; it’s not even an easy cut for me, either—I’m going to be pretty heavy for him, so let’s see how he’s going to respond. I’m going to go out there and put on a clinic.
Do you have a prediction for how it’s going to end?
I’m really bad with predictions, but at the end of the day, my hand is going to be raised and I’m going to have a ‘W’, I’m going to come back home and have a rest and start looking forward to the next one.
What would a win over Tyson in June mean to you?
It’s not like I’m fighting for the belt or anything; it’s just another fighter—and that’s how I look at it. He’s got a big-name, he’s got some good fights, and he’s a good fighter, he can impose his will, he’s got power, but we’ll see how he responds to me. I’m a different type of fighter than I was one year ago or two years ago—I’ve improved a lot and I’m trying to improve more and more.
How much better do you feel you are now than when we last saw you in the Octagon?
I’m a lot better, you know? I understand the stand-up game better now, I know how to control myself, my wrestling is getting way better, and my take-down defence and my submissions have improved dramatically.
Assuming you win, where do you see yourself in the UFC’s featherweight division?
There are a lot of good guys out there, like I said. There are a lot of top-guys, and nobody knows who the next contender is. Right now it’s Jose Aldo and Chad Mendes, but there are a lot of good guys out there; Erik Koch, Kenny Florian, and there are a lot of up-and-coming fighters—you can name them all day. The division is pretty stacked and I’m not looking past anyone; my next opponent is Tyson Griffin and I’m going to start from there and move on.
What do you feel you can accomplish in the UFC?
Like I said, my goal is to fight all of the best fighters and take on tough-fights—I never look for an easy-fight or anything like that—and I think I can be a champ in 2012. I want to improve myself, get that belt, and feel like a king for a while.
I guess it might be hard to put a number on it, but how close to you think you are to getting another shot at Jose’s featherweight championship?
It all depends on Dana White and Joe Silva and the UFC organization. Like I said, I wasn’t expecting to get the title-shot in the WEC; Josh Grispi was next in line, but I got the call for the title-fight, so I don’t know. One or two fights, maybe? We’ll see. Maybe one more fight and then I’ll get another title-shot again.
What would that featherweight championship belt mean to you at this point in your career?
It would be the best thing in the world; it’s like winning the gold medal in the Olympics [laughs]—there’s no other way that I could explain it to you. That’s my dream; to have that belt around my waist and feel like a king inside the Octagon and be happy.
Have you thought about how much longer you’d like to compete?
Well, I don’t know. I just turned 30, so I’m not saying that I’ve got another 10 years to go—I don’t know. Hopefully I have another four or five good years to go. As long as I’m healthy and training the way that I want to train, I can go. I’m not going to say that I want to be the next Randy Couture—because you know what? That’s a given. If I’m feeling it and feeling that I’m improving, I feel that I’m still capable of fighting—I’ll fight. Because of that, I can’t give you a prediction about how much longer I’d like to fight.
Have you thought about what you might like to do when you’re done fighting?
I don’t know, man. I’ll probably open up my own school and give my talent and knowledge to other kids to help them improve. I’m not the best teacher or anything like that, but I’ve got years and years of experience, so I could probably be a pretty good teacher and help other people be good fighters also.
What do you feel the future holds for you?
I don’t know—fighting, still. I can’t tell my future from a year or two from now, so we’ll see. We’ll see how it goes.
Is there anything that you’d like to say to your fans while you have this opportunity?
I, first of all, want to thank all of my training partners, my coaches, my family, and my fans out there. Watch me fight on June 26—it’s going to be on Versus and hopefully I’ll be on the televised card. It’s going to be a great fight; expect fireworks. I’m going to go out there and do my thing.