Sunday, January 6, 2013
Stephanie Gonzalez Interview
Photos 1-3: Israel Grajeda
Stephanie Gonzalez has put together some impressive wins in her amateur MMA career and with hopes of going pro soon, has the work ethic to put together many impressive pro MMA wins as well. As she says, she has been an athlete all her life and after starting just taking a kickboxing class, she continued progressing to other aspects and has developed into the fighter she is today. Stephanie is one of those fighters that I really get behind and can support. She shows respect and in talking to her, even when she wanted to voice any hostility, you could tell it was hard for her.
Q: Can you talk about how you got started training for the sport?
A: I have been training for about four years. It is actually kind of funny how it started. I was in school, been an athlete all my life, soccer, dance, you name it and I have done it. I have big brothers, I was kinda born into it I guess. Once my soccer days were over and I got tired of running miles I wanted to find something different. I googled kickboxing and an MMA gym popped up, a local gym. I had no idea what cage fighting was. I went and they had a women's kickboxing class, an hour cardio class. I did it that day and then I did it every single day. The way they did it, they had back to back classes, a 5 o'clock, a 6 o'clock, a 7 o'clock class, and withing about two months I was doing three classes back to back. My manager now approached me and said "you are bad for business, we cant have one person doing all three classes so maybe you should try Muay Thai." So Muay Thai turned into Jiu-Jitsu and then boxing and wrestling and now I am here.
Q: Were your family o.k. with you actually fighting?
A: I have always been the kind of girl that if a guy can do it, I can do it, and I can probably do it better. I have always been like that, playing sports and around my brothers. I was never scared and my family was like "it's just another thing that Stephanie is doing", it was never a shock or anything.
Q: Where did the "Shark" nickname come from?
A: It was after my second fight. I won by TKO and the way the promotion described it to be, we were against the cage and I went after her and he said "Stephanie the Shark smells blood". Wish I had a cooler story haha.
Q: You started 2012, your year of Lybarger with a win over Jocelyn, a pretty high profile win, what did that win mean for you?
A: Ahhh the Lybarger drama. Let me start by saying I have all the respect in the world for every female fighter, that is how I have been raised. That being said, that fight, I read about the Lybarger's, I heard about them, watched their fights. It was pretty big for me even though their camp would say it was controversial. In all fairness I think I did win that fight. I think I acme to win, I brought it and I won. It was my first title belt ever. Supposedly it was their first title for girls for Momentum FC. That was more important because it was the first not because it was a Lybarger.
Q: After that win and with other impressive wins, did it get harder to get fights?
A: Yes! Especially after that one, it was very hard. So many times my name would come up and girls would just say no. Not only that, I had already fought Kaiyana Rain and beat her the first time, so it was "o.k., she has fought Kaiyana, she has fought Jocelyn." After that fight we were getting ready for the first Tuff-N-Uff where I was supposed to fight Jillian originally and she didn't make weight. I had been getting ready for that since I fought her sister. Two weeks later I was offered a fight in three days against Amanda Santos, my fifth win. I had to take what I could get.
Q: Your first defeat was Kaiyana, how hard was it to get beat the first time?
A: It was hard. I still say, no disrespect to any opponent, the fight that really pushed me was the first fight with Kaiyana, I was a nobody and we knew about Kaiyana and I was an underdog and won. I knew this time that she wanted my head, she wanted to kill me, I knew she was coming after me. We tried different things and it was really weird playing the same game, we waited for each other, tried different things. In that fight she was smarter and knew what I was doing and pushed the fight the whole time. I wouldn't say I knew I could lose, cause I always know it is possible, but the first time it happens is hard, the most humbling thing ever. Now I know I am not invincible. I wasn't knocked-out like my last fight but it's hard, but only makes me want it more.
Q: Moving to the loss to Jillian, they say you learn more from a loss than a win, so what did you learn from that fight?
A: With that fight, there were so many things that went with that fight. There was a lot of bad blood between us because that was the third attempt at fighting her. In April she didn't make weight and her camp told us she didn't want to fight. We drove five hours, me and my team and found out at weigh-ins, with my hair braided I might add haha, at that point I was willing to go up and do a catch weight but they said it was unhealthy for her. Then in May we drove out there and got my hair braided again haha, and it was for the 115 title, I came in at 116 and she came in at 124 and I was frustrated. The second time, you prepare for something, I break my back for these fights and I work twelve hour days, train five hours a night and sleep three hours, and we have the same body style, I had to drop the same weight she did, and I took it to heart. I showed you the respect. Then there was talk that she would come down, she wouldn't come down. We offered her 120 and then I went up to 125. We did a lot of preparation and I felt ready. Things happen, she caught me. You learn from it. A lot of other things went wrong. Ultimately she caught me and I am not invincible.
Q: Do you know when you want to turn pro?
A: It was said after this fight that we would start looking. Offers have come my way. We are thinking about whether to go to 125 or remain at 115. It is looking like this year. My ultimate goal is to be on Invicta. I have been watching these girls since I googled kickboxing. Getting on Sherdog and learning about these amazing athletes and it is my dream to be on the same card as these amazing ladies.
Q: The bodybuilder in me makes me point out you have a great physique, is that something you work towards or is it just more a result of what you do?
A: It's both. I have been an athlete all my life, had my arms my whole life. Lifting is not foreign to me. It is a lifestyle. I have been approached by bodybuilding trainers that I have some potential. I have thought about it. Maybe when my braces come off. I respect bodybuilders for their diet and discipline, it is hard to be on stage and be judged. It is something I would want to try.
Q: You mentioned Invicta and with women now in the UFC, how optimistic are you about what is happening with women's MMA?
A: It is amazing. It is happening so fast. People get the wrong idea. I don't say "I am Stephanie Gonzalez, I am a fighter, shake my hand". I don't mention it but when people find out they are like "oh, you're different". What I respect about UFC and Invicta is they showcase what is is to be a fighter. People say they can fight, yeah you can fight, but can you do what we do? We go to sleep thinking about it. Some of us have children, we have jobs, it is a lifestyle. It is a dream. Someone mentioned to me that I am part of the explosion at 115, I am small small small contribution, but I feel proud to be part of something like this.
Q: Three years from now, where do you see yourself in the sport?
A: I plan to be fighting professionally and being successful. It is hard to say. Fitness competition's, I feel blessed in MMA, I have a good work ethic and if I work at it, I can do it. I will work hard for it. I cant say what will happen, but I know I will deserve it cause I work hard for it.
Q: Anyone you want to thank?
A: Everyone at my gym SoCal Fight Factory. They believe in me even when I was a little skinny girl. My manager Rene Leyva, my coaches, Chris Sparks, Fritz Rodriguez, Sumpan Boonsook, My gym family, My mommy and family. Also my sponsors, Clash MMA, 2crzy4u, Sik Shop Fight Gear and Michelle Martinez.