It’s Wednesday, three days before the biggest fight of his career and Lewis Gonzalez is outside in the sun, running through the streets of his neighborhood bundled in layers of clothing. He is sweating and he’s tired but he can’t stop, he has pounds to shed and a champion to challenge. After going 6-0 at 170 and 160 pounds, Gonzalez is moving down to 155 pounds to face Cage Combat’s Lightweight title holder Bobby Stack. It’s the Turlocker’s first title fight; the fight he hopes will help launch his professional career.
“I feel like this is the weight class I need to be at to really dominate and be successful,” Gonzalez said. “If I can take the belt from this guy I think it’s going to turn some heads. I’m hoping this is my fight that gets me over the hump and to the next level.”
After dropping 15 pounds, Gonzalez still has three more to go before weigh-ins. Some say the last few pounds are the hardest to lose but Gonzalez is used to it, he’s gone through this process countless times as a wrestler. As a lightweight he will lose some of his power and mass but his frame will stay intact, giving him a size advantage over his opponents. His height and reach will be complemented by speed but, more importantly, he’ll enter the cage with the confidence of being the bigger man.
“I’ll make the weight; it’s just not fun,” Gonzalez said. “I can tell I’ve lost muscle mass but I’m not concerned because I have 24 hours to go eat, rehydrate, and get a good night’s sleep. When we get in the cage I’ll be a couple inches taller and have a lot more length on Bobby.”
Fighters are always looking to exploit their opponent’s disadvantages but in Gonzalez’ case, facing a seasoned fighter in a championship bout, the importance increases two-fold. Stack, a former state qualifying wrestler with heavy hands, has been a professional since 2007and has faced top-level fighters on the national stage. In short, Stack has what Gonzalez wants and he’s ready to take it.
“He’s nothing I haven’t seen already, the last two wrestlers I fought had better credentials than him,” a confident Gonzalez said. “This is what I’ve been working for. I’ve already beaten a couple of guys who have a belt now so I figure it’s about time I get one.”
Even with his confidence Gonzalez isn’t leaving a stone unturned, however. In addition to his increased cardio routine, the man known as “Lethal” Lewis has been refining his striking abilities in the gym, working in the boxing ring in anticipation of what he may encounter in the cage.
“Every night when I go to bed I’m thinking about the fight,” Gonzalez said. “Eventually, if I keep on the right path towards the big show, I’m going to be put in the cage with a guy that has the same wrestling abilities as me and I won’t be able to dominate in that area. It might come down to the stand up, so I’m working on my weaker points instead of just focusing on my strengths.”
Gonzalez isn’t the only one envisioning tonight’s fight. While he’s in the gym or out on the streets training, friends and family are rallying around him and trumpeting his name. From Facebook to word of mouth, Turlock is buzzing with the news that a native might be a champion by the week’s end.
“Everyone’s pumped up about it,” Gonzalez said. “It’s nice that people are recognizing what I’m doing and that I’m putting in all the hard work. It always motivates you when the people around you are supporting you.”
Tonight’s bout will more than likely be Gonzalez’ last of the year, a bookend to a busy and productive first year as a professional Mixed Martial Artist. If he can take Stack’s title, Gonzalez will gain negotiation leverage, higher pay per fight, and clout within the industry; accomplishments many fighters take years to achieve. Still, what Gonzalez wants more than anything is that personal feeling of accomplishment every professional gets from overcoming an obstacle.
“The belt would be nice to have, like a trophy to show success in the sport, but beating someone like Bobby, who’s 8 and 2 and has fought in Strikeforce twice, would be a great individual win,” Gonzalez said. “I’m going to impose my will on him until I see him start to break.”
Gonzalez gets his shot against Stack in the co-main event of tonight’s Cage Combat Rise and Fall at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa.
“From here it’s not going to get any easier,” Gonzalez said. “The more I keep winning the more they’re going to keep testing me with top opponents until UFC, Bellator, or Strikeforce come knocking.”