When it was first announced that Mateusz Gamrot had signed with the UFC, those in the know immediately understood that a new contender had just been added to the ultra-competitive lightweight division. A two-division champion under the KSW banner in his native Poland, Gamrot compiled a 17-0 record with one no contest, standing as one of the top talents competing outside the Octagon at the time.
Nearly three years into his time on the UFC roster and poised to headline opposite Rafael Fiziev on Saturday in Las Vegas, the 32-year-old standout is content with how things have gone so far, but eager to take things up a notch, starting this weekend.
“Of course, I want to be the champion, like you said, but I am happy in the UFC these three years,” Gamrot said on Wednesday afternoon when asked to assess his first three years competing in the Octagon. “Every match, my opponent is higher ranked than me, which (makes me happy), but this fight, I want to prove I am the real deal to the UFC. I want to show my best performance, because my last fight was short notice and I agree my performance was not good.”
The fact that Gamrot characterizes a short-notice, split decision win over fellow ranked lightweight Jalin Turner as “not good” should tell you everything you need to know about the man currently stationed at No. 7 in the lightweight rankings.
Stepping in for Dan Hooker at UFC 285, Gamrot leaned on his wrestling to negate Turner’s sizeable reach advantage and attempt to neutralize some of his power. At times chaotic, the two engaged in a competitive back-and-forth battle, with the Pole landing on the happy side of the split decision verdict.
The victory got Gamrot moving in the right direction again following his UFC 280 loss to Beneil Dariush in Abu Dhabi last October, and now, he lands opposite Fiziev, a fellow Top 10 talent, in his second UFC main event.
“I am honored that this is my second UFC main event,” he said of headlining this weekend’s event at the UFC APEX. “I feel that the UFC appreciates my name, my MMA skills.
“I have many main events and five-round fights; this is my favorite distance,” continued Gamrot, who competed in six championship fights and was the main event in each of his final two KSW appearances. “I like accelerating every round and I think this is going to be my advantage — my stamina, my conditioning, my mental strength I believe is better than my opponent.”
Already confident in his preparations and abilities in the fight, Gamrot has been buoyed this week by the presence of a long-time friend that brings nothing but positive energy to Fight Week in Las Vegas.
“Joanna is a great person,” he said of former strawweight queen Joanna Jedrzejczyk, who is riding shotgun with Gamrot as he readies to face Fiziev. “She helped me a lot this fight week, my previous fight weeks, my sport career and my life. I really appreciate her. She’s super — she’s really a true champ, always.
“She always gives me good energy and good power,” continued Gamrot, expanding on Jedrzejczyk’s influence. “Her mental strength is her super-power and when she’s around me, I feel good energy and this is great for me.”
Appreciative of the opportunity and bolstered by the good vibes brought to the week by “Joanna Champion,” Gamrot is eager to step into the Octagon and test himself opposite Fiziev on Saturday.
Like Gamrot, the 30-year-old striker quickly worked his way into the Top 10 in the lightweight division, rebounding from a surprising loss in his promotional debut with six straight victories before running into Justin Gaethje earlier this year and landing on the wrong side of a majority decision result in London.
Hardcore fans have long been aware of the elite talent both Fiziev and Gamrot possess, and the two are acutely aware of what each other brings to the table this weekend as well, but, for Gamrot, this weekend’s main event feels like an opportunity to show the larger audience that he’s ready to be included in the championship conversation as we head towards UFC 294 in Abu Dhabi next month.
“When I signed my contract with the UFC and I came here, I wanted to fight with the best guys in the world, and Rafa is the best striker in the world,” he said, reflecting on both the pairing with Fiziev and his position in the division. “I am happy I can fight with this guy. I have what I want.
“I have much respect for Fiziev. In my opinion, he is the best striker in the lightweight division — he’s world-class — but I believe I am a better all-around fighter. I believe in my wrestling skills, and my wrestling skills kill every striker.”
Gamrot’s beliefs match up with the playful frustration Fiziev expressed when we spoke about this weekend’s contest, where “Ataman” lamented his opponent’s penchant for wrestling and elite skills on the canvas.
While the Polish contender spent time working with the national kickboxing team ahead of this camp to sharpen his striking skills and is more than willing to exchange with Fiziev on the feet on Saturday, Gamrot doesn’t feel any need to be coy about his plans for this weekend’s matchup.
“When I see an opportunity to take him down, I will take it, for sure,” he said casually. “And every time when Rafa touches the ground, he will want to go up as soon as possible because ground will be super-hot for him; hot like fire.”
With the lightweight title back on the line next month and things ahead of Gamrot and Fiziev in the rankings a little unsettled, the talented “Gamer” is confident that the winner of Saturday’s contest will find themselves positioned in the Top 5 once the dust settles.
And once you’re in the Top 5, there is only one fight that makes sense.
“The winner of this fight will advance to the Top 5, and everybody knows that in the Top 5, there is only a title run,” forecasted Gamrot.
“In my opinion, for myself, I am the best wrestler in this division, and I am only interested in another great wrestler in this division — the champ — and that is the most interesting opponent for me.”
But for right now, the only thing on his mind is Fiziev and turning in a better performance than last time.
“My focus is on Saturday night and Fiziev,” he added. “And I will be a (much) different animal than last time.”
UFC Fight Night: Fiziev vs Gamrot took live from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada on September 23, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!