Heavy MMA caught up with WEC featherweight Manny Gamburyan as he prepares for perhaps the most important fight of his career when he takes on Mike Brown at WEC 48 on April 24 at Arco Arena in Sacramento.
Heavy MMA: Despite being ranked the 8th best featherweight in the world by Sherdog, do you feel you still have something to prove in your upcoming fight against Mike Brown?
Manny Gamburyan: Most definitely. I can be ranked No. 8 in the world but those numbers don’t mean anything. A win puts me in line for a title shot. That’s my goal, to be featherweight champion. First I have to get past Mike Brown for a chance at the belt. Obviously, I have to step up my game because Mike Brown is a gamer. I have to bring my A-game because he’s the ex-champion. I’m prepared and I’m going to go out there and try to destroy him.
Heavy MMA: You have won your first two fights since dropping down from lightweight. Does 145 pounds feel like where you are most comfortable as a fighter?
Manny Gamburyan: Yes, I should have been there for a long time but I started at 155. It’s not the weight cutting that a problem it’s just that I thought I could never make 145. Now that I know I can I feel good, I feel strong. I feel like I have found a home now so I’m staying at 145 and going after that belt.
Heavy MMA: What made you decide to make the switch from lightweight to featherweight?
Manny Gamburyan: It was after I fought Thiago Tavares. At the end of the fight I was like 160 pounds and he was like 185. I said to myself I shouldn’t be at 155, I’m too small for 155. My promoter Joe Silva wanted me to drop to 145 and I told him I would think about it. I talked to my friends, my coaches and my family and we all thought I could do it. I just had to work out a little more. Now I’m happy at 145 and I’m looking forward to my next fight.
Heavy MMA: After your family came to the US from Armenia, you started studying Judo. What drew you to that discipline of Martial Arts?
Many Gamburyan: Judo is just one part of Martial Arts. When I got into MMA I had to start learning other things as well. I don’t do as much Judo as I used to. I don’t compete anymore in tournaments or anything like that but Judo means a lot to me. That’s my base and that’s where my roots come from. But at the end of the day this is MMA, and you have to mix it up with boxing, kick boxing, Muay Thai – a little bit of everything.
Heavy MMA: Talk about the experience of being on The Ultimate Fighter and getting a chance to fight guys like Joe Lauzon and Nate Diaz. Did doing well on that show give you the confidence that you could be successful in MMA?
Manny Gamburyan: Yeah, for sure. Being in a house with like 14 dudes, all that could fight and fighting Joe Lauzon and Diaz, that was great experience. Just being in the house, training with other fighters and being a part of the UFC was great. I think I took a lot out of that experience.
Heavy MMA: You won your first four pro fights before being defeated by Sean Sherk back in 2001. What did you learn from that fight and what did you take from that first defeat?
Manny Gamburyan: To be honest, I moved up in weight class for that fight. I got an offer to fight Sean Sherk and I fought him tough for 18 minutes. That was like when I was 18 years old. Sean Sherk was tough and I learned a lot fighting him because I fought him so hard for 18 minutes. I was young but I still respect him because he’s such a great fighter.
Heavy MMA: What challenges does an aggressive fighter like Mike Brown present and do you expect him to come right after you?
Manny Gamburyan: For sure. I expect it to be a war with Mike Brown. This is what it is man. I love fighting and I love a challenge. Mike Brown is a great fighter, but he’s in my way for a title shot so I have to take him out. Hopefully everything plays out the way I want it to and I come out on top.
Heavy MMA: Will we see the best Manny Gamburyan yet at WEC 48?
Manny Gamburyan: Yes, of course. I’m coming in with a gameplan. I will stand up and box or we can take it to the ground. I’m confident in my gameplan, I think I’m well prepared so wherever the fight goes I’m comfortable.
Heavy MMA: Should the winner of you vs. Mike Brown be next in line for a title fight against the winner of Jose Aldo/Urijah Faber?
Manny Gamburyan: I think so. It should be like 95 percent that the winner of this fight gets a title shot. It just makes sense to match up the two winners next. That’s what I’m driving for is that featherweight belt.