Gustavo “El Gladiador” Balart is ready for another chance to prove himself in ONE Championship’s strawweight ranks.
The Cuban mixed martial artist will square off against Ryuto “Dragon Boy” Sawada at ONE: BATTLEGROUND in Singapore this Friday, 30 July, and victory over the Japanese athlete is crucial for his future in the promotion.
Though Balart has produced some solid performances in ONE, he’s still hunting for his first win, and now, he believes the time is right to take a big scalp on the global stage.
“[People] don’t know that, in my last fight, I had a knee injury and I couldn’t fight well,” the 34-year-old says.
“There were things that had an influence in relation to the fact that my cardio was not at a good level. I think I made a big mistake accepting that last fight. Now, I have prepared very well.”
The American Top Team product has gone up against top-level opponents so far in ONE Championship, and this time, it is no different.
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But after a strong training camp in Coconut Creek, Florida, he feels ready for the matchup with “Dragon Boy.”
“Sure, he is a good fighter, but he is a very straightforward fighter. In his stand-up, he only uses his one-two,” Balart says.
“He is a good wrestler. That’s his great advantage. I have better stand-up and great boxing that will make the fight difficult [for him].
“We have focused on his weaknesses and defects — the gaps where we will find our way to victory.”
While “El Gladiador” is quick to credit his rival’s wrestling skills, he also possesses a lifetime of experience in the sport. The Cuban even competed in Greco-Roman wrestling at the 2012 Summer Olympics, so his own caliber is at the highest level.
However, Balart thinks Friday’s matchup with Sawada will play out differently than most fans expect.
“I think this fight is going to take place more in the stand-up [department]. He will try to take me to the floor. I will thwart those attempts and force him to stand up to exchange with me,” the Cuban says.
“It is what happens many times when two wrestlers face each other. People think that they will see a great level of ground fighting, but it’s not like that.
“The fight will take place mostly on the feet, since we both know the other is good on the canvas. That’s why they bet everything on their boxing.”
The resulting confrontation looks set to be entertaining — especially with the pace that ONE’s strawweight stars inject into their contests — but “El Gladiador” is only focused on the outcome.
More than anything, he’s focused on putting his training into practice and grabbing his first promotional win, even if a fan-friendly affair is the likely byproduct.
“I know I’m going to give it my all. I don’t focus on putting on a show, just giving my best. Although, by giving my best, I offer a great show,” Balart says.
Of course, the Cuban will only share so much about his strategy before battling the Japanese standout on Friday.
At this point, he’ll let his fighting do the talking – and the last word will come if and when he overcomes Sawada.
“I don’t want to say more about how it’s going to happen,” Balart adds.
“I think I’ve already talked a lot about my preparation, about my tactics, and about the gaps that I have discovered for him. Once the fight is over and the referee raises my hand, people will know I was right with my plan.”