Hidden amongst the talent-rich throngs of the UFC's middleweight division lies an unexpected contender on the rise. He is a beast that goes by many names ("The Dreamcatcher," "Kingo," and "The Young Vagabond" among them) -- a silent, lethal assassin who is only spoken of in hushed circles of the media elite. He is a four-time world champion who has already laid claim to the souls of 40 men, and now, has his sights set on revenge. He is ... Gegard Mousasi.
This Saturday at #UFCBeflast, Mousasi will attempt to make right on one of the most shocking losses of his career: a knockout which came via a once-in-a-lifetime combination at the hands (and knees) of TUF 17 finalist #UriahHall in September 2015. But despite all of the accomplishments he has achieved in his 13-year career, there is still a large segment of the MMA fan population that doesn't have the slightest clue who Mousasi is ...
... until now.
The Man, The Myth, The (Suddenly Vociferous) Mouth
Unlike many fighters, the mystique surrounding Gegard Mousasi amongst casual fans cannot be solely attributed to a lack of proper marketing, social media presence, or the fact that English happens to be his second language (though all of those qualifiers do apply). No, with Mousasi it was much more intentional, or it least it seemed that way.
As the Tehran-born, Netherlands-raised kickboxer was making his way up the ranks in promotions like #Pride, #Dream, and #Strikeforce -- promotions which would receive just as blank a stare from many casual fans when asked about them as Mousasi's name itself -- he seemed to almost pride himself on maintaining a constant deadpan, both inside the cage, and out.
Recently, however, we've begun to see something of a shift in how Mousasi addresses the media -- an awakening, if you will, that the man himself credits to the recent political career of Donald Trump.
"They ask me [a question] and I just give my honest opinion. Before that, I would just try to give the answer that's 'correct.' I'm just saying what I'm thinking and people either love it or they hate it, but that's just me being more myself," Mousasi told The Sun following his #UFC204 TKO win over #VitorBelfort. "I was politically correct and it got me nowhere. Why is Donald Trump [so popular] now? He's the worst candidate but people say 'we love his character.' We'll see how it goes."
Question the lessons that Mousasi has taken away from Trump's ascension all you want, but don't you dare say that the results have been anything short of gold thus far. Not only has Mousasi recently claimed that he would easily beat middleweight champion Michael Bisping (I believe "I would jab his face the whole night, easy" is the direct quote), but he even took to the mic at the UFC 204 open workouts to engage in a little pre-fight trashing of Vitor Belfort, claiming that a win over the former two-division champion would put him "nowhere." He even went after the pound-for-pound king of trash-talk, #ConorMcGregor, calling him a "ginger-headed f*ck" during a recent interview.
In fact, you could argue that it was Mousasi's mouth, not his hands, that got him booked in a rematch against Hall in the first place.
Following his win over Belfort at UFC 204, Mousasi wasted no time stating that Hall's win over him was fluke that would be easily rectified should they meet again. So when the original UFC Belfast main event between #GunnarNelson and #DongHyunKim fell through following a Nelson injury, Mousasi's name immediately jumped to the top of the list of replacement opponents.
And as for his social media following? It's gone from about zilch to "must-follow" in just a few weeks, with the middleweight contender recently calling out #NickDiaz on Twitter and going to war with an army of trolls during a Facebook Live Q&A to side-splitting results.
The Dreamcatcher, The Soul-Snatcher
Of course, talk is just that if you can't back it up in the cage, and thankfully, Mousasi has rarely failed to deliver in that regard.
Currently 7-3 in the UFC, Mousasi's only two losses outside of the Hall fight have come against top middleweight contenders #LyotoMachida and #RonaldoSouza. As for how his other opponents have fared, well...
Also included on Mousasi's list of notable wins:
- Hector Lombard (Pride - Bushido 13)
- Melvin Manhoef (Dream 6: Middleweight Grand Prix 2008 Final Round)
- Ronaldo Souza -- for the Dream middleweight championship (Dream 6: Middleweight Grand Prix 2008 Final Round)
- Mark Hunt (Dream 9)
- Renato Sobral -- for the Strikeforce light heavyweight title (Strikeforce: Carano vs. Cyborg)
- Dan Henderson (UFC on Fox: Gustafsson vs. Johnson)
- Vitor Belfort (UFC 204)
At just 31 years old, Mousasi has fought an incredible 48 times, on four different continents, with 40 victories to his credit. And yet, it feels like we're just getting to know the actual Gegard Mousasi: the brash, uncompromising truth-teller who spends his spare time doling out ass-whoopings, starting flame wars on Twitter, and, perhaps most disturbingly, smiling.
Should he manage to settle the score with Hall on Saturday, it's very likely that we'll see Mousasi placed onto the shortlist of challengers for the middleweight crown and people actually being excited about it.
Check out Mousasi's first fight with Hall below, then let us know how you'll think he'll fair in the rematch in the comments section.