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Saul Almeida and Pedro Gonzalez have never fought before, but they’re not going into tonight’s CES MMA 45 as strangers, either.
Years before they were scheduled to try to beat each other inside the cage, Almeida (19-8) and Gonzalez (12-5) trained together. And, as it turns out, that still translates to some mutual respect as they head into the co-headlining scrap at Twin River Casino in Lincoln, R.I.
Too bad that, with CES MMA’s interim featherweight title on the line, the respect can only go so far.
“He’s a guy to look up to,” Gonzalez told AXS TV Fights’ Phoenix Carnevale. “He’s been fighting for a long time. I’m actually kind of friends with him a little bit.
“But this is the fight game. Things like this are going to happen. You’re going to fight friends, and it’s business when you get in there. After the fight, we’ll grab a drink and … talk about the fight.”
A 28-year-old WSOF and Bellator veteran, Almeida will also tell you he has nothing against his former training partner. That is, before and after the bell rings, of course.
“There’s nothing crazy outside of the fight,” Almeida said. “But for 25 minutes or less, like I told him, we’re going to try to kill each other.”
Their mutual experience could be why the two are also cautious not to overlook each other’s abilities. In fact, although Gonzalez is the one riding the momentum – he comes off a five-fight winning streak, while Almeida has just recently snapped a three-fight skid – he struggles to see many openings in his opponent’s game.
“I guess I couldn’t really say what he’s weak and vulnerable for,” Gonzalez said. “He’s a grinder. He’s durable. And he’s hard to finish. I can’t really see any weaknesses. He doesn’t have much power in his punches, maybe that’s where I can say he has a little weakness.
“But other than that, my plan is just to keep it on the feet, I guess. And roll with the punches.”
Almeida, in turn, does sound a tad more confident – especially when he tells Carnivale that he believes his 20-year experience with martial arts training grants him superiority basically “everywhere.” In fact, he doesn’t seem to carry much doubt that his arm will be getting raised tonight.
But he’s also careful not to simply dismiss his competition.
“Pedro is very tough and aggressive,” Almeida told MMAjunkie. “He always looks for submissions – guillotines, rear-naked chokes. But I don’t know if he’s ever faced someone on my level. I think he’ll have a few problems with me.
“Plus, he hasn’t been fighting very often, maybe once a year. And he was supposed to face the champ before, but he got hurt. Regardless, he’s on a nice win streak. So it will be a nice challenge for me. We’ll see. It will be a great fight – a great fight for me.”
The winner is expected to face undisputed champ Matt Bessette – who’s healing up after a recent loss to Kurt Holobaugh at Dana White Contender Series 1. And while unifying the belts presents an exciting prospect for both, it does carry some added weight for Almeida.
Not that the Brazilian veteran has anything against the champ, of course. In fact, it’s quite the opposite – he thinks Bessette is a cool guy and a good opponent. But after dropping a decision loss to him on the Bellator stage in 2012, Almeida might get a chance to settle a score en route to his ultimate goal.
“I personally felt I won, but there’s nothing we can do about the judges’ opinions,” Almeida said. “But that was five years ago. It would be a completely different fight now. If all goes well, he should be next. My goal is to go on a good win streak, finish my opponents and get into the UFC.”
To hear more from tonight’s co-headliners, check out the video above.
And for more on CES MMA 45, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.
Filed under: AXS TV Fights