Mikey Gomez: it’s about time

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New Gracie Barra Temecula school owner Mikey Gomez opened his fledgling Jiu-Jitsu academy to the public last week and held his first class. Six new students showed up and he couldn’t have been happier. “It was awesome,” he says.

Gomez has been a black belt since 2006, but has been teaching for other people for about 10 years, since he was a blue belt. He’s always wanted to own his own school. “It’s about time,” he says, “This opportunity showed up and I took it. Temecula’s a great spot. There are lots of families here. People love Jiu-Jitsu, MMA, and fighting.”

Mikey Gomez competing again after a four year hiatus / Photo: Deb Blyth

Gomez started out at Nova União in Paraguay at 16 years of age. When he got his blue belt, he moved to Boston, but at that time there were no Nova União gyms in the States. “Kenny and Keith Florian were teaching classes under Roberto Maia. I tried it for a month, but it was too cold for me!” he laughs, “I was going to go to Renzo’s, but that was New York, so it was still too cold for me.”

So, in 2001, Gomez ended up making the move to Florida and began training at GB Orlando with Marcio Simas. “I was 19 years old and didn’t have the money to train,” he says, “I worked at a clothing store, folding clothes. It was my first job ever. After work I would go to GB Orlando and watch the classes until I saved up enough money to train.”

Gomez loved Jiu-Jitsu so much, he asked Professor Simas if he could start a kids program for them. “That’s how I started teaching and getting paid,” he says, “I started teaching the kids and then slowly started helping with adult classes and eventually took over. I loved GB Orlando. It was great. I call that ‘home’ now. I lived there for 9 years.”

Gomez says competing in Florida was “crazy.” He had to travel all over for tournaments. “Miami, Jersey, California, different parts of Florida… I had to travel all over to compete,” he says, “Then I would go to the Worlds in Brazil to gauge myself and see how I was progressing. I never placed, but I always won three or four matches and I’d win them all by submission.”

Gomez started training in MMA in 2003. He spent one year training and by this time, he was a purple belt in Jiu-Jitsu. In 2004, his instructor, Todd Broadway, told him he was ready to have his first fight. Gomez took that fight and won.

Mikey in MMA / Photo: Steadfast Videos

By the time Gomez took his third fight, he was feeling pretty good. He took on Carlo Prater, whom Gomez says was “like 22-2,” and lost on a decision. “I didn’t have a manager,” he says, “It was just me doing my thing. After that it was so hard for me to get fights. People kept dropping out.”

Gomez then made the mistake that many fighters make by trying to make it big in MMA. “I started fighting just for the money,” he says. Like many before him, he’d take fights on a couple of days to a couple of weeks’ notice and won a few of them, but lost many, too. With no manager and no routine training schedule, Gomez was lost. He took two professional muay thai fights. “I lost my first fight against UFC fighter Thiago “The Pitbull” Alves,” he says, “I only had three weeks to get ready for that fight and I lost to a decision.” Gomez won his second fight. “The guy I fought had a record of like 24-0. It was a title fight and they brought me in to lose. I ended up winning by TKO in the third round and won the belt,” he laughs, “I never stopped training after Thiago.”

Gomez moved to California in 2009. “I needed to fight out of Florida,” he says, “I was known in Florida and felt I couldn’t get the exposure I needed to fight in bigger shows. I wanted to get noticed.” So, Gomez hooked up with Renato “Babalu” Sobral and started training muay thai at GB Cerritos. “I wanted to train more,” he says, “I felt like everyone was getting better but me. I wanted to be a student again.” But once again, Gomez got lost in the shuffle of freeways and busy cities in California and couldn’t get it together. “I didn’t know California was so crazy with everything so far apart,” he says, “It was really difficult for me to train and I didn’t have a set camp.”

Gomez and teammate Fabiana Borges winning Gold / Photo: Deb Blyth

So, with a record of 12-8, Gomez decided to take some time off from being the student and once again, became the instructor, teaching at different GB schools in Southern California. He became roommates with Fabiana Borges and Rodrigo Simoes and they enjoyed a year of training and friendship together. “We helped each other be better,” he says, “Living with them was great. It was like heaven. That was my little family last year.”

Gomez has now returned to the MMA scene with a new perspective and a new training team, but he still trains everyday with his GB team. “I never stopped training with the gi,” he says, “It makes everything tighter.” Gomez trains with GB greats Otavio Sousa, Kayron Gracie, Romulo Barral, Flavio Almeida, Marcio Feitoso and even Master Carlos himself. “It’s been so great,” he says, “I love training Jiu-Jitsu with such a high-end team.”

Gomez is training so much now, he’s even started competing in Jiu-Jitsu again. Gomez won the 2010 No-Gi Nationals. “It was really great because I hadn’t competed since ’06,” he says, “I won my first match at the 2010 No-Gi Worlds, but then I let Tussa keep on going because he was the defending world champion.” Gomez says he’s honing his skills. “I feel great in my game now,” he says, “I’m a completely different fighter. I have better listening skills, better striking, my Jiu-Jitsu is better. I’m better all the way around.”

One major reason for his improvement is that he now trains at Reign with Mark Munoz. “There I train with Mark Munoz, Fabricio Werdum, Jason “Mayhem” Miller, Brett Cooper, and Marcel Louzado to name a few,” Gomez says, “They’ve helped me so much. It’s the first time I have an actual team.”

Gomez also finds strength through his training at Juggernaut Training Systems with Chad Smith. He trains there with all of his GB friends, like Fabiana Borges, Rodrigo Simoes, Romulo Barral, Kayron and Ronis Gracie and Bruno Antunes. “For the first time, I’m really getting stronger,” he says, “A lot of times when I lost to Division 1 wrestlers by decision I didn’t have that raw strength that they did. Now I feel like I do have it. I’m stronger and more explosive.”

Gomez prepping for James Brasco / Photo: Steadfast Videos

Put all that together and you have a new fighter with a strong mind and a well-conditioned body to go with it. Gomez recently put his new skills and training to the test when he faced James Brasco in his WEF fight last week and won by TKO in the first round. Gomez trained seven weeks for the fight. “I stunned him (Brasco) with a jab and tried to finish it, but I slipped and fell,” he says, “We traded some punches and he stunned me for a second. I worked in a few punches and stuffed his takedowns. Then he clinched and I threw a knee to the body that dropped him. I followed with punches from the guard then from half-guard. The ref eventually stopped the fight.”

The win stoked Gomez’s MMA fire more than ever. “I want to fulfill my own dreams as a fighter,” he says, “I didn’t go on to school because I always wondered if I’d have regrets about not fighting. So I followed the fighting path. I don’t regret a single thing. I want to get into the UFC and make a run for that 185-pound title.”

Big dreams for a kid out of Paraguay who, at one time, was folding clothes in a store to make enough money to train Jiu-Jitsu. But while he has his own personal dreams to realize, as usual, this born-teacher is helping others manifest their dreams as well. “I’ve trained so many fighters and they’re doing great,” he says, “Jim Ailers, Bruce Connors, and Frank Sharipov. They all have a shot at getting in the UFC. I helped Jonathan Brookins before he went into the TUF house. All those guys back in Florida. I’m really proud of that.”

And now Gomez has his own school in GB Temecula. “My goal for the school is to be successful and to help people,” he says, “I like teaching a lot. I’ve seen grown men who’ve been bullied their whole lives. I like helping them out. Seeing them progress and watching them become so confident. I like to make good fighters. Everyone’s fighting for something – being more confident, losing weight, becoming an MMA fighter. I like helping them in their lives.”

Gomez says he lives his life by the tenets his mom taught him. “She always said, ‘Every time someone leaves your life, they should leave feeling like they gained something positive from you.’ That’s what I try to do,” he says, “You always start somewhere. Someone always gave you a hand along the way. I want to be that person to others. My reward is being a positive addition to anyone’s life.”

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