Exclusive: M-1 Champ Guram Gugenishvili Praises Velasquez, Says Overeem Lacks “Fighting Spirit”
By Kelsey Mowatt
While many throughout the MMA world understandably think ‘Fedor Emelianenko’ upon hearing the name M-1 Global, the company’s current heavyweight champion Guram Gugenishvili continues to take steps in becoming another of the promotion’s top assets. Earlier this summer, M-1 Global had begun to kick its promotional machine into high gear in anticipation of Gugenishvili’s U.S. and Showtime Network debut, but an arm and wrist injury prevented the Georgian fighter from fighting Pat Bennett as scheduled on July 8th.
Despite the setback, M-1 Global is still hoping to have Gugenishvili’s next fight take place on American soil as well as Showtime, and the 25 year-old recently reported to FCF that his recovery is still on track for an October return.
“It’s recovering fine,” Gugenishvili said when asked how his arm and wrist injuries are recovering. “I’m already training and getting back in shape. Thanks for asking!”
“I am definitely there in October,” the fighter added while discussing his next bout, which is expected to take place on October 14th. “I will be 100% ready for a fight in the United States.”
It remains to be seen who M-1 Global will match Gugenishvili up next. After replacement Kenny Garner stopped Pat Bennett in the second round at the July 8th M-1 Global event, the American heavyweight called for a rematch with Gugenishvili in his post fight interview.
“I think his win over Bennett was good,” said Gugenishvili, who choked Garner out with a second round, guillotine choke last October. “He deserved it and showed a high level of fighting.”
“I can’t say there is somebody specific I want to fight actually,” the heavyweight noted. “I will fight whoever M-1 puts in front of me… Superman maybe (laughing).”
While Gugenishvili has earned a position as one of the heavyweight division’s more highly touted prospects, by winning eleven straight fights since he turned pro in 2009, the team MakFight competitor isn’t making any bold statements regarding his ranking yet.
“The fact is I’m not a top heavyweight fighter yet. I’m not even in the Top-20,” said Gugenishvili, who is coming off a first round, submission victory over Maxim Grishin in March. “I need to train hard and for a long time to be the best. My main goal in life is to become a Champion of all MMA leagues and to collect all the belts – M-1, Strikeforce and the UFC. I can’t say whether I can or cannot defeat somebody –that’s what a ring or cage is for – to define who is the greatest.”
Not only has Gugenishvili won eleven straight fights, but ten of his victories have come via submission, nine of which occurred in the first round.
“I am trying to improve my skills on the ground,” said Gugenishvili when asked to grade his abilities. I am like Bruce Lee standing up already (laughing).”
Gugenishvili cited his desire to add the UFC and Strikeforce championships to his resume, titles that are currently owned by Cain Velasquez and Alistair Overeem respectively.
“Cain Velasquez is a great fighter with good stand up technique and he is an excellent wrestler with a good ground game,” Gugenishvili noted when asked to assess both Velasquez and Overeem. “He would be a hard fighter to defeat. I’m looking forward to his next fight.”
“Alistair Overeem – well, he’s in good physical shape but what he doesn’t have is a fighting spirit.”
Of course, news surfaced recently that Overeem would not compete in the semi-finals of Strikeforce’s ongoing heavyweight grand-prix due to complications stemming from a reported toe injury. With the withdrawal of Overeem, the tourney suffered the loss of one of its biggest names, which at one time included the aforementioned Emelianenko.
“As I’ve mentioned before one of my goals is to compete against the top fighters and the tournament started with a list of great fighters,” said Gugenishvili when asked if he would have liked to have competed in the grand-prix. “As to who will win, I don’t know but may the best man win!”