“I get paid to finish fights. I don’t get paid to spend 15 minutes in there."
Gabe Ruediger’s road back hit a bump last August. But as soon as he watched Joe Lauzon’s hand get raised in their UFC 118 bout in Boston, the eight year pro realized it was time to move on.
“Losing for me is devastating,” he said. “I do not like to lose and I certainly don’t like to lose to people like Joe Lauzon, but it was his night and I give him credit. He’s a very tough fighter and I could have sat and complained about it and been upset, or I could have gone back to work. I took two weeks off, I had staples in my head, I needed to regroup and recover, but I went right back to work and started working on making myself a stronger and better fighter.”
The defeat ended a six fight winning streak that saw Ruediger battle his way back into the UFC after a disappointing run on the fifth season of The Ultimate Fighter and a UFC 63 loss to Melvin Guillard. But against Lauzon, the 33-year old was simply overwhelmed, rocked and then submitted in slightly over two minutes.
“I took a fight on two and a half weeks’ notice and it was a fight that I couldn’t turn down,” he said. “I just feel like I didn’t have the right gameplan. Looking back and reflecting, I should have fought fire with fire instead of trying to be tentative and holding back. I should have come out guns blazing and I think it would have been a completely different fight.”
That’s all in the past now, and that’s the way Ruediger is looking at it. All that concerns him right now is Saturday’s UFC 126 bout against Paul Taylor, and with both coming off defeats, it’s not only a pleasing matchup stylistically, it’s one that may determine the futures of these 155-pounders. In other words, the end result may be a fight that could steal the show from the bigger names on the stacked UFC 126 card.
“Paul’s nickname is “Relentless” and it’s very well suited for him,” said Ruediger. “But I’m not too concerned with what he’s gonna do; it’s more of what I’m gonna do. I’m in phenomenal shape, I’ve been doing six fives of sparring, bringing in guys that emulate his style, and whatever he brings, I feel I can bring more. His intensity, I think I can match that. Skill set wise, I think he’s a better striker than I am, but I’m a better fighter than he is.”
Confidence has never been lacking in the tool set of the former WEC lightweight champion. But he makes sure to walk the line between confidence and arrogance, because one step in the wrong direction in this sport can mean an early night. So even when he was putting together his year and a half winning streak, he didn’t get it in his head that he had finally figured it all out.
“I’m a very humble person,” he said. “Anyone can beat anybody on any given day, and I fought some very tough guys in that time frame. You have to be confident in what you do and I was definitely confident in what I was doing, but I don’t sit and think that I’m unbeatable.”
What he does take pride in is that when he signs for a fight, the only goal is to finish. And that’s just not talk, as a look at his record shows that whether winning or losing, odds are that the fight will end early. In 23 fights, he’s gone the route just twice, decisioning Sam Wells in 2005, and losing a three rounder to Justin Wilcox in 2008.
“I get paid to finish fights,” said Ruediger. “I don’t get paid to spend 15 minutes in there. And certainly with the issues we’ve been having with judging, that’s the last thing I want. I don’t want to put it in their hands, and if you look at my record, two times I’ve allowed the judges to make their call.”
“It (that philosophy) has been ingrained in me before I started fighting,” he continues. “Is it a sport? Absolutely. But it’s a combat sport. There were no draws if you got in a street fight as a kid. You either won or you lost. And that’s my take – it’s a fight. We go in there and we go to fight. He’s either going to get his hand raised, which won’t happen, or I’m gonna get my hand raised, which will happen.”
That kill or be killed attitude is also reflected in the Van Nuys resident’s approach to his future, which he hopes will be in the UFC. So when the phone rings and he’s offered a fight, there is no hesitation to accept whoever is thrown at him.
“I want to fight great guys and keep pushing myself as hard as I can,” he said. “I can sit and pick guys that I think would be a great road to the title, but I don’t get to make that decision. (UFC matchmaker) Joe Silva calls up my manager and says ‘Gabe is fighting this guy,’ and I either say yeah or if I say no, then it looks bad. When Joe calls and says Gabe’s gonna fight this guy, I want to be the guy who says no problem, done.”
He took a fight on short notice against Lauzon and that didn’t work out so well. This time, his assigned dance partner is Taylor, and with a full training camp behind him, Ruediger expects that his first UFC win, one years in the making, is just a few days away. After that, he’ll simply play it by ear.
“I’m fighting to be the best that I can be, to push my limits and see where I am,” he said. “I think I can go in there against anybody and win. Can those people also beat me? Absolutely, and there are six people that have that on their record. So I don’t think I’m indestructible and can’t be beaten, but I certainly feel that I can beat anybody.”