"I know my back's against the wall. I just want to go out there and have fun like I used to do." - Louis Gaudinot
When flyweights Louis Gaudinot and Phil Harris face off at UFC Fight Night: Gustaffson vs. Manuwa on March 8 at London's O2 Arena, both men will seemingly be fighting to keep their spots on the UFC roster.
After all, they're both coming off losses, and for the Tiger Schulmann protégé Gaudinot, a disappointing performance in his last fight against Tim Elliott after a 19 month layoff due to various injuries puts a ton of pressure on the green-haired machine known as much for his heart as he is for his fighting skills.
"I'm taking it like any other fight, but I want to go out there and have fun," he said. "When I first started fighting there was no pressure and it wasn't a job. I lost my last fight and I'm 1-2 in the UFC; I'm still up there in the rankings but I know my back's against the wall. I just want to go out there and have fun like I used to do. "
At 29 years old, the criminal justice major from Seton Hall University is wise beyond his years. Even in interviews he talks to you like you are one of his students, and that is a direct influence from the man he's been training under since he was six years old.
"Tiger Schulmann is like a second father to me," says Gaudinot, sitting in his office at the Hoboken, NJ school which he owns under the TS MMA banner. There's a quote hanging conspicuously on the wall for everyone to see.
It reads, "Sometimes you win. Sometimes you learn."
"They all know Sensei fights and sometimes he loses," he said. "You have to look at your losses, and yeah they suck and winning is always better, but losing means you have to go back, look at what you did wrong and then fix it. That's how you get better."
For UFC fighters, losing in front of millions of people on national television is one thing, but it's the dozens of students and friends and family members that they see every day who matter most in those lonely moments after a loss in the Octagon.
"By the time I get back home I'm over it, but in the heat of the moment it sucks," he says. "After my last fight I tried real hard not to cry on national TV, but when I went back to the locker room I was really upset, and Tiger Schulmann comes up and says 'Relax, you fought your ass off. There's nothing you can do about it now except go back and learn what you did wrong and fix it.' But I feel like I let a lot of people down, I say, and he says, '99 percent of people can't even step foot into the cage, and 99 percent of fighters who do will never get to the UFC. You didn't let anyone down. You did your best and that's all anyone can ask for.'
He's always saying the right things to me. After the Johnny Bedford fight my face was real swollen and I was worried about my daughter, who was three or four at the time. And Tiger Schulmann said 'you're going to say ‘yes, this hurts,' pointing to my eye, 'but this hurts more,' he told me, pointing to my heart. 'Because when you want something so bad and you work hard for it and you don't get it, your heart will hurt longer than your face.' So that's what I told her, and she smiled and said, 'that's okay Dad, you'll get him next time.' And that made me feel better."
In Harris, Gaudinot faces a man who is as well-rounded as he is, but in hailing from Portsmouth, England, he will have the home field advantage.
"I'm not too worried about what he's going to do, I'm worried about what I'm going to do. I'm working on all aspects of MMA here. Jiu-Jitsu, kickboxing, Muay Thai, boxing, wrestling, and we'll see how everything goes March 8th."
One thing that will scream to the average UFC observer is that Harris was knocked out in his last outing by John Lineker - the man Gaudinot dominated in a fight that put him near the top of the flyweight division nearly two years ago. That was before injuries and a lackluster showing against Elliott at UFC 164 last summer.
Surely he's going to walk into this fight with a lot of confidence, right?
"I don't play into that MMA math too much," he said. "I beat this guy and he beat him so it's going to be an easy fight.' I actually saw a picture of Kimbo Slice once and it was, Kimbo beat him and he beat him all the way down to Fedor, meaning that Kimbo could beat Fedor and we all know that isn't true."
Gaudinot says he's got a Plan A, B and C, and will be prepared for wherever the fight goes, and he's got some theories are where it is likely to end up.
"I think he is going to try to take me down," he said. "Bedford took me down and controlled me, so I think he'll go for the takedown. I don't think he wants to stand with me because if he does, Lineker hurt him standing up, and I went toe to toe with Lineker, so I don't think he'll choose that route. But if he does, GREAT. That's the kind of fight the fans like to see anyway."
MMA is a fast sport, and things have a tendency to move even faster in the UFC.
Division contenders can change with an injury, a loss, a lackluster performance, a move up or down a weight class by another fighter - or it could be that someone else who is not even supposed to be in the top ten conversation suddenly starts knocking people out and finds himself in title contention after two or three impressive victories.
No one knows that better than Gaudinot.
"I had a lot of momentum after the John Lineker fight," he said. "I had matchups and they would send me the contracts, and before I could even sign on the dotted line I got injured. So I feel like those 19 months off hurt me, and I had a disappointing performance in the last one, so I just need to focus on getting back in the win column. I don't want to put too much pressure on myself. Like I said earlier, I'm going in there to have fun, put on a show, and hopefully, no matter what happens, the fans and the UFC will be happy with my performance. But of course I'm going there to win. I'm going in to finish him."
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