Thursday, February 2, 2012

Spotlight Interview: Zoila Gurgel

After a loss to Miesha Tate, which Zoila Gurgel says was the best thing to happen to her, Zoila went on a streak of impressive wins over impressive fighters including Megumi Fuji and Jessica Aguilar that culminated in her winning the prestigious Bellator Tournament in 2010. After one fight in early 2011, Zoila has been out of action with a torn ACL. With rehab going well hopefully we will see her back in the cage in the not to distant future.

Q: Can you start out just talking about how you got started in the sport?
A: Oh wow. It wasn't that long ago. I was playing soccer in college. I got hurt a little and when I came back it wasn't anything competitive enough for me. I was playing little pick up games here and there. I was getting way to aggressive, getting way to many red cards. Slide tackling girls, shoving them all over the place, its just wasn't enough for me anymore. So I found boxing from there and went to a gym in Fresno that was more of a Muay Thai base, and went straight to MMA from there.

Q: Your only loss is to Miesha Tate, is that something in the future you would like to try and avenge?
A: Oh definitely. Ever since I lost it has been a fight I wanted, to take her on again, at 135 or 125, she has said she would drop down to 125 when she was going back and forth with Tara LaRosa. I've actually become pretty good friends with her and she's a really nice girl and I respect everything she has done in the sport.... and for beating me the way she did. It taught me a lot and got me where I am today. But to be able to challenge her again would be an amazing opportunity.

Q: You have been your best since that fight, is it safe to say that in a way, that loss was good for you?
A: That loss was the best thing that could have happened to me in my career. It taught me that I wasn't invincible. Up to that point it was all Muay Thai. I was so much of an athlete I figured I didn't need to work on wrestling cause I didn't think anyone could keep me down. But I fought a bigger opponent and Wrestling and Jiu-Jitsu was her strong point. On the ground with her I was a fish out of water, I had no idea what was going on or what I was doing. It wasn't that I felt she was stronger than me, it was more, I had no idea where I was going or what I was doing. It was a loss from the beginning but I learned a lot. After that happened I went straight to Fresno City College and they let me work in with the guys and I got my ass beat on numerous occasions and fell in love with wrestling. Then I fought Michelle Ould and beat her and then I met my husband and got together with him. I got a call from Bellator to fight Rosi Sexton, so I was working on wrestling her, an then the tournament, it it went on from there.

Q: You mention Bellator, in 2010 you won their tournament beating some legit girls, Jessica Aguilar, Megumi Fuji, safe to say that's your career highlight till now?
A: Oh yeah, by far. Up till that point, Miesha was my first test, all the girls I have fought have been more experienced than I was. Every fight was with someone way more experienced, even the Penne fight, the Rosi Sexton, I was supposed to get slaughtered by her. She had so much more experience. But I worked hard to get to where I was and beating her showed I wasn't a push over. Penne was 7-0 and more experienced, same with Aguilar. Same with Megumi, I wasn't supposed to get out of the first round, let alone five rounds and winning. To be able to get in the cage with them and beat them was very rewarding.

Q: Going into that tournament, I think most people expected Megumi to win. Did you feel you had something to prove?
A: It wasn't just something to prove. I knew everyone except a handful of people knew I was gonna lose that fight. I had people who were family or close friends who said "how do you expect to beat her?" I didn't take it as an insult, its who she was, she made a name for herself in this sport. I had nothing to lose. If I had one thing it was strength, everyone knew I wasn't going to the ground with her, its something you don't do. So I figured my only chance was knock her out or stay on my feet. In my eyes it was like taking the belt from her cause there was no one who could stay in a fight with her. So I felt my chances were to use my strength, physical ability and keep it standing.

Q: Your last fight was in March, a decision win over Karina Hallinan. Is it hard to train for someone you already fought?
A: It's not really hard at all. I go in to each fight the same way. I don't think about who I am gonna fight, I let my coaches do that. I go in with the same mentality, super confident and not picturing anyone else beating me. To fight her again was like a new fight for me. She was a completely different fighter. I am sure I will fight Aguilar and Megumi again and they will be different fighters and so will I. I am evolving and you can't look at fighters the same.

Q: Your sister Stephanie just lost a super close decision, but showed a lot of improvement. How good can she be?
A: Stephanie is an amazing athlete. She is a lot better at thinking about the whole thing. She likes to work on details, especially in Jiu-Jitsu. She has improved so much in a little time.

Q: Your cornered her in that fight. Is it hard to corner someone who is family?
A: It definitely is. She is actually the only person I ever cornered. Her first few fights I could barely control myself. There was no coaching involved, just shouting out things here and there. The first few fights I was so overtaken by emotion that I couldn't coach her. So this time around was easier because Jorge is her main coach and I am there for support. I am there for her and it helps more than shouting things out.

Q: You fight, your husband fights, your sister fights. Do you get more nervous for your fights or theirs?
A: Definitely them. Stephanie would be the one I am most nervous for, then Jorge, and I come third. I am a little nervous but it's always game for me, always confident and feel I prepared myself enough to go out there. So I am never nervous for my fights, just super confident.

Q: You moved out here to Ohio. Except for the fact the weather sucks, as a fighter, how has moving here and working with Jorge helped you?
A: It has helped tremendously. Where I came from was strictly Muay Thai. Besides the weather, everything is amazing. The people here are completely different as well. Everyone is so helpful and welcoming. Its so much nicer, you can completely tell the difference, everything is completely different. It was the best move I ever made besides getting married to Jorge. The people I work with are amazing and help out and don't ask for things in return. In California it was all about money. Here its about love for the sport. It made me want to be better and make everyone proud. It gives me a family to fight for, and it makes it really hard to lose.

Q: With what happened with Cyborg, does that in your opinion hurt women's MMA at all?
A: In my opinion, I think in some ways it does and some ways it doesn't. I was a huge fan of hers. A lot of people saw it as like watching a man fight, completely different. It's hard to answer. It kind of helps cause it gives other fighters a chance to showcase skills without performance enhancing drugs.

Q: Right now everyone is talking about Miesha Tate vs Ronda Rousey. Some people like Ronda and some don't. Would you agree that at least she is getting people talking about a female fight, and that aspect is a good thing?
A: I agree with you one hundred percent. She is saying things that I can see why people get offended, I'm not offended, she isn't talking about me personally. She is getting a lot of press, getting it for her and Miesha. It is a big fight. As long as she brings attention to women's MMA in a good way, I'm all for it. Its a fight I am looking forward to. She brings excitement to it, and so does Tate. I think it's good for women's MMA.

Q: Do you have a prediction on how the fight goes
A: Oh man, I would like to see Tate win because of where she is and who she is, and cause I fought her as well. But its hard to tell. We haven't seen much of Ronda's fighting. So it's hard to call. She is an Olympic athlete, fought girls who are bigger than her, and she's taken them the way she wanted to and beaten them how she wanted to. it's hard to call, but I am looking forward to it.

Q: Most people know you have been out with an injury, can you explain what the injury is?
A: I tore my ACL in wrestling practice. It was something so small, I couldn't believe it happened. I took a shot and stopped in the middle and my knee popped and I knew something was wrong. I got an MRI and the doctor said "your ACL is completely torn, you need surgery". So I got surgery November 8th and am rehabbing and recovering.

Q: Do you have any time table when you could fight?
A: I am hoping, a lot of people were saying nine months from when it happened, I would like it sooner, like five months from now. The goal is to fight before the year is over, or if Bellator has that tournament, I would love to jump in that or get a fight before it. I want to fight at least once before the year is over, if not twice.

Q: Before we finish, anyone you want to thank or mention?
A: Everyone. Jorge Gurgel, my mom Zoyla Grace and family, JGMMA team, coaches Stutzman, Mike Ferguson, my sister Stephanie Frausto, my nutritionist Eric Trilliegi, my supporters and fans throughout my career and through my surgery and rehab, team manager Jeremiah Gabbard, amazing friend and sponsor through surgery Billy Ayashi, and Tussle. And you Jason Adams for the interview and supporting women's MMA and helping us get more recognition, people like you give us more to fight for.


  1. Excellent article, James. That was a really interesting interview to read. With her only loss against Miesha Tate, I can't wait to see Zoila Gurgel back in the cage.

  2. Thanks but my name is Jason not James

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