Gustavo “El Gladiador” Balart has always believed he was one of the best flyweights in the world, and now he has the perfect opportunity to prove it in ONE Championship.
The Cuban will jump straight in at the deep end in the world’s largest martial arts organization when he faces Tatsumitsu “The Sweeper” Wada in the last ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix quarter-final at ONE: ROOTS OF HONOR this Friday, 12 April.
The Olympian only received the call to compete in Manila, Phillippines a few weeks ago, but he had no hesitation about accepting such a dream opportunity.
“I’ve always wanted to sign with ONE Championship. When I first got the offer, I was very excited. I was very hyped,” he explains.
All three other quarter-final contests took place on 31 March at ONE: A NEW ERA, and revealed that a bout with Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson awaits if Balart can get his hand raised in his ONE debut.
“El Gladiador” did not need another reason to become a member of the roster in The Home Of Martial Arts, but that was the icing on the cake.
“It just gets me even more excited,” he says.
“It gives me the chance to face Demetrious Johnson, that’s something I’m very, very much looking forward to. I can’t wait to be in the cage with him. I’m just ecstatic. I can’t wait for that.”
To get to the semi-finals and a showdown against the record-breaking World Champion, Balart first has to get through a dangerous and skilled opponent this weekend.
Wada is a DEEP Flyweight World Champion with more than three times as many bouts as Balart on his 20-10-2 (1 NC) record – including a trio of contests in ONE.
However, though Balart’s mixed martial arts résumé is not as extensive, it is impressive. The American Top Team representative has surged to an 8-1 slate, powered by world-class Greco-Roman wrestling skills.
Immediately after he received the call about the contest, the 32-year old Cuban started to research and investigate his opponent to ensure he had him well-scouted before they faced off in the Mall Of Asia Arena.
“What I’ve seen from my opponent, what I’ve studied, is that he’s a good striker,” Balart says.
“He looks like he’s a well-developed fighter – he knows how to keep the pressure on.
“I’m just going to stick to my techniques and just tweak it if I need to, but on the day of the fight, I’m going to demonstrate what I’ve got and how I’m going to beat him.”
No matter what happens in the battle with Wada, “El Gladiador” knows he has an equalizer he can draw on – the grappling skills that saw him win a gold medal at the 2011 Pan American Games and represent his country at the 2012 London Olympics.
But that is not all. His punching power saw him win his last contest via knockout in just 20 seconds, and he has a lot more going for him that could swing the bout in his favor, and make sure fans remember his name.
“Other than my wrestling, my advantages are that I’m a lot faster and I’m going to be much stronger,” Balart adds.
“My prediction is that I will finish the fight within two rounds. I’ll do my best to put on a show. ”