When I go out there, I’m gonna lay it all on the line. I fight with my heart and I’m gonna go down swinging and go to the very end.” – Louis Gaudinot
Living and training in Hoboken, Louis Gaudinot is only a couple exits on the New Jersey Turnpike away from what may end up being the most important fight of his three year pro mixed martial arts career this Saturday night against Brazil’s John Lineker, but the length of the drive to East Rutherford doesn’t do justice to the time it took him to get here.
Think about being the 5-foot-8 high school football lineman who knows he can’t compete on the Division I level because of his size, or the star small forward in basketball who knows that being 6-foot-2 in that position just won’t cut it when you’re facing those 6-foot-6 and higher at the next level. That’s what Gaudinot (5-3, 125 pounds) was looking at for much of his career. You either find a rare fight at your weight on a level playing field, or you give up every possible physical advantage, with the exception of speed, to bigger opponents just to get real-time experience.
To go one step further, when Gaudinot had the opportunity to compete at bantamweight on season 14 of The Ultimate Fighter, he took it, knowing that the possibility of failing in front of millions of television viewers was right there in front of him, perhaps killing any future marketability. But that’s what fighters do sometimes – they roll the dice.
“I knew the type of opportunity it was, and I never thought in a million years that I’d be fighting in the UFC,” said Gaudinot. “Six, seven years ago they didn’t even have 155 pounders, and 125 and 135 really didn’t exist. It was almost impossible to get a fight. I always thought that I’d be fighting in the WEC, and even they didn’t have 125; they were just talking about it. So the opportunity was there, and I had to take it, and they let me know that they’d give me a shot at 125 when it comes up. So I had the choice to either sit on the sidelines and fight locally, or go up a weight class and fight in the UFC. I think a lot of people do that on short notice fights or to go on The Ultimate Fighter, and when they drop down, you definitely see a lot more success in their careers, and that’s what you’re gonna see in mine.”
Gaudinot didn’t win TUF 14, losing in the quarterfinals to Dustin Pague, but he stopped Paul McVeigh to make it into the house, he gained a large fan following for his exciting style (and green hair), and even though he lost a bout to Johnny Bedford on the season finale card, the UFC kept its end of the bargain, giving him his shot at redemption against Lineker in his natural weight class. To top it off, he’s getting to do it in New Jersey, the perfect scenario to reintroduce himself to the masses.
“When I had found out they were doing the card here in New Jersey, I asked my coach to give a call to (UFC matchmaker) Sean Shelby and those guys and see if they can get me on the card. Then I was bugging (UFC president) Dana (White) and Sean Shelby on Twitter, and my fans were doing it too, kinda like they were doing the rally for Mark Hunt. (Laughs) I really wanted to fight here in my hometown, and I knew that I would have 14-15 weeks to get ready, and fighting at 125, I get to show the world what I can really do in my weight class.”
In the 21-year old Lineker, he’ll be facing a wild card, a young gun with a 13 fight winning streak and 24 pro bouts, but one who has fought all of his fights in his native Brazil against opponents virtually unknown to all but the most hardcore of hardcore fans. The same could have been said for another Jungle Fight champion, Erick Silva, who has since become one of the welterweight division’s most promising up and comers. Will Lineker follow in his countryman’s footsteps? Gaudinot is looking to nip that quest in the bud on Saturday.
“He’s definitely had a lot of fights, and that’s good for experience,” said Gaudinot of Lineker. “People get nervous going into the cage and performing in front of a crowd, so he’s done it 20-something times, and he’s definitely experienced in that sense. I watched a bunch of his fights from Brazil on youtube, so I can study him, but I don’t think he’s faced the level of talent that I have over the years, especially since my last couple fights were in the UFC. I’m looking to get in there and show him that he’s not on the same level as I am.”
And as far as the UFC jitters go, Gaudinot got those out of the way back in an empty Mandalay Bay Events Center when he beat McVeigh to get onto TUF 14.
“That, to me, was like my first UFC fight in a way,” he said. “I had Dana White and the two coaches (Michael Bisping and “Mayhem” Miller) sitting there in an empty arena that holds 15,000 people. That’s really where my nerves were kicking. I think I got those jitters over with, and especially this fight, fighting in my hometown, I’m excited. I’m not nervous at all, I’m just anxious to get out there and show everybody what I can do.”
In a lot of ways, Gaudinot is a seasoned vet at this point in his UFC career, despite having just one official fight in the Octagon. He’s gone through the pressure of winning in order to change his career (and life) forever, he’s had cameras following him every day for six weeks, and he’s gone through the process of getting ready for a UFC fight, which can sometimes be more stressful than the fight itself. He’s also been the David against Goliath and the fighter that has to do twice as much to get half the recognition bigger athletes get. So to see him finally get his opportunity to compete on a level playing field on the sport’s biggest stage, you have to say he’s earned it. And with the 125-pound weight class just getting off the ground in the UFC, a couple good wins could have him in a title fight sooner rather than later. Now that’s an incentive to succeed.
“When there’s only eight guys in the division, you win two, three fights and you look good in them, you could be looking at a title shot,” said Gaudinot. “You don’t want to look too far ahead, but it’s definitely interesting to know that two fights in and I could be in a title elimination bout or even a title bout, depending on how the division plays out in the next year. But I want to focus on my opponent that I have on hand now, and not look past him.”
That’s the only attitude Gaudinot can have. He’s come too far up the MMA turnpike to look back or look too far ahead. All that matters is now.
“When I go out there, I’m gonna lay it all on the line,” he said. “I fight with my heart and I’m gonna go down swinging and go to the very end. I’m looking to show that even though we’re 125 pounds, I’m looking for the knockout. I want to show that even the little guys can end it with one punch too.”