Gabriel ‘Napao’ Gonzaga started fighting in his native Brazil in 2003. He went 4-1, losing only to a then unknown named Fabricio Werdum. He won silver at the 2005 ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championship. Even with an incredible background in BJJ (he would go on to win the Mundials the next year) and a very solid MMA record, the best offer on the table was for $500.
Then got a UFC contract.
Gonzaga’s UFC debut was brutal – he was recovering from mono, and just weeks before his wife had lost one of the twins she was carrying. He had an uninspired fight with Kevin Jordan, until with just 21 seconds left, he ended it with an incredible Superman Punch. Then he TKOed Fabiano Scherner, tapped Carmelo
Things then looked up. He TKOed Fabiano Scherner, tapped Carmelo Marrero, and then knocked out Mirko CroCop in what is often hailed as the best kick KO in league history.
That got him a title shot with Randy Couture. He broke The Natural’s arm but lost in the third via strikes. Next fight he faced Werdum again and lost again.
Gonzaga rebounded with two wins but was then KOed in the first by Shane Carwin. He rebounded with one win but next lost to Junior dos Santos and Brandan Schaub.
He was cut by the UFC in 2010, and tapped Parker Porter for the Reality Fighting championship.
The UFC brought him back the next year, and he went 4-1, which included tapping Ben Rothwell. However, since 2014, he has gone 1-4, most recently losing to Derrick Lewis in April.
Now 37 and a 4th degree black belt under Wander Braga, Gonzaga runs Team Squared BJJ in Worcester, Massachusetts. He won KO of the Night once and Fight of the Night twice. Among other accolades, he is second for most finishes in the UFC heavyweight division with eleven.
In an interview with Guilherme Cruz for MMA Fighting, he said he is done with competing in MMA, unless there is a $100,000 offer on the table.
“I don’t plan on coming back,” said Gonzaga. “I’m taking care of my new gym, Squared BJJ. If I get an offer, it has to be a great offer, or I’ll keep competing in jiu-jitsu against people my age. I’m probably retired already. I will only fight again if there’s a good offer, financially speaking, and I don’t think any promotion wants me.”
“I don’t fight for less than 100 thousand dollars. I’m 37 years old and I won’t risk my health or waste my time training and suffering for this. I don’t need it anymore. God gave me a good opportunity in life, and I don’t need this anymore.”
“The UFC is more like a show than a fight sport now. McGregor is the biggest example. I’m embarrassed to be in a sport where McGregor is the biggest idol. If you wouldn’t like your son to be like the biggest idol in your sport, there’s something wrong with it. And I don’t believe anyone would like to have a son like McGregor.”
“Sports are made to create examples to the society as a whole. If that’s the example, someone that talks trash about people or an entire community, he’s become the example for the young generation entering the sport, they will want to be like this idol. If that’s the idol, I don’t want my son fighting MMA anymore and behaving like that.”
“Thank God I had a good run in this sport. I wasn’t the best in the world or became the champion in a big organization, but I was always there. I was a top 10 for almost a decade, I have the second-fastest knockout in the division, I have more than 20 fights in the biggest promotion in the world, and I believe I’m tied with Frank Mir with most finishes in the division. I had a good run. It could have been better, but it could have been worse, too.”