Opportunities in life are transitory. Here one minute and gone the next; they are to be seized and capitalized on whether in personal or professional arenas. But sometimes opportunities are fleeting by nature, dependent on external circumstances that are out of the control of those who stand to benefit from them.
This is the most recent lesson learned by Lewis Gonzalez.
Gonzalez was set to compete in the biggest fight of his three-year professional MMA career this Saturday at World Series of Fighting 8 in Hollywood, Fla. In only his second fight with the promotion, Gonzalez was called to face rising star Justin Gaethje for the inaugural Lightweight Championship belt after Gaethje’s original opponent, JZ Cavalcante, was forced to withdraw from the bout.
Gonzalez quickly agreed to the fight. Although the time frame to prepare and train was short, the young Turlocker recognized the impact such a fight could have on his career. It’s what he’d been waiting for all this time.
Unfortunately—and ironically—the same circumstances that led to his shot at a WSOF belt also drained the life from his dream. With only a few weeks separating a Gonzalez vs. Gaethje showdown, Gonzalez injured his right knee during practice and was eventually forced to pull out of the fight.
“It was hard. It was disappointing. I have a bunch of fans and family who were looking forward to it, and I was too,” Gonzalez said of the decision. “When it came down to it and we talked it over, with wrestling being my main thing, we talked about my lack of lateral movement and figured I was only 60 to 70 percent. I couldn’t compete at a high level, so we had to make the decision.”
More than just a good opportunity for his career, the Gonzalez vs. Gaethje matchup was to be a promising promotion for the upstart WSOF. With two undefeated fighters—Gaethje 10-0 and Gonzalez 9-0—both young in age and both well versed in wrestling, the fight would have been a big boon to all parties involved.
With that in mind, Gonzalez tried to push through the injury with the hopes that he would be able to enter the cage on Jan. 18, but despite all his efforts he and his management were forced to accept the circumstances.
“I felt a little pop. It hurt bad at the time but I thought I could shake it off,” Gonzalez said of his injury. “When I started to wrestle there were a lot of things I couldn’t do and it wasn’t feeling any better. That’s when I sat down with my manager and we decided to sit this one out.”
“Deep down I wanted to keep going, but with the injury I wouldn’t have been the same fighter,” Gonzalez added.
Now, with Richard Patishnock taking his place in the fight against Gaethje, Gonzalez will be forced to stay in Turlock this weekend as he continues his rehabilitation. Though his return is as of yet uncertain—as is when he will get another title shot—Gonzalez seems undaunted by the twists of fate he’s experienced in the past month.
“This stuff happens and I’m just as bummed as everyone else; but I’ll be back. It might take one more fight to get back into the title fight, but I’ll be back in the cage in no time,” Gonzalez said. “We’re trying to shoot for me being out only a month and a half and maybe get to fight in March in San Jose.”