Combate’s Bantamweight Champion: And Still
When Gustavo Lopez enters ‘La Jaula’, he does something that I have never seen before, from any fighter. Ever. I first noticed it during the second fight against Jose ‘Pochito’ Alday, who at the time held the belt. Lopez would, of course, go on to finish Alday and win the title. I also noticed it again, in his first title defense against Joey Ruquet, on August 23, a VICIOUS first-round knockout which you can see here. Lopez enters ‘La Jaula’, moves around, the usual stuff. The fighters are both introduced, same as usual. But, when the fight begins, the bantamweight champion starts to smile, and I mean he starts to SMILE like you’re ten-years-old and it’s Christmas morning, smile.
“I don’t know man, I’m just sick,” Lopez said. “I love what I’m doing and I’m in such a good, happy place in life. I’m not in there angry.”
The fight is a gift to him, and he is grinning from ear to ear, the entire time, ready to unwrap his present and see it in all its glory. Watch that clip, he’s smiling before he goes for the kill shot! It’s like when you’re a kid and somebody is saying, “I know something you don’t know.” That’s Lopez. He’s already won the fight in his head before the opening bell. If you want to watch the full fight, it can be found here. Fast forward to 53 seconds and you’ll see what I mean.
Back to that knockout though, oh my goodness. This was no TKO. Joey Ruquet got knocked out COLD and the way it looked on TV was just….brutal.
“Yeah, It looked bad. When I hit him, and he fell and I saw, I looked at his face and I’m like, oops. Like, hands up, let’s walk away. It’s done.”
The first title defense is always tough, for any fighter. You have to go out there and prove, this was not a fluke.
“It’s just a relief. Happy and excited that I got that first defense out of the way,” Lopez said. There was pressure on me to go out there and perform, and showcase why I am the best, why I am the champion.”
What’s next for Lopez? The answer is unclear. A trilogy fight against Jose ‘Pochito’ Alday would surely be fun to watch. A new contender, that would be interesting, but who? Perhaps John ‘Sexy Mexi’ Castaneda? What about Erik ‘Goyito’ Perez? Perez, a former UFC fighter, has not fought since November of 2018 for Combate. We’ve seen how the public has reacted to a star like Conor McGregor who sits out for an extended amount of time and gets a title shot because of his name and status. Goyito is a bit different. He won his last fight and hasn’t been out for nearly as much time as Conor was when he fought Khabib. But, the question remains. Is Goyito truly the most worthy candidate?
“I’m not sure if Erik Perez is still in the mix,” Lopez said. “Combate has so many great fighters. Anybody could be up next. I’m going to speak with them pretty soon and discuss the future. Goyito only has one fight. The only reason they would give him a fight with me is because, to tell you the truth, I don’t know why. He has a good name. I’d love to fight him, but I think Combate has more fighters that HAVE been active, and have been winning. But, it’s based on the company and what they want to do and what they think will make the most money.”
Perez, while never a champion with Combate has always been thought of to be, one of, if not the best fighter(s) on the roster.
“My roommate Bryan Caraway, one of my coaches, fought him years ago,” Lopez said. His style is perfect for me. A guy that likes to brawl, thinks he can wrestle. He’s not on my level. I think I’m better overall. My striking has improved so much I think I’m even a better striker than him now. When I fought Alday, his striking looked so great, everybody was saying he was one of the best strikers in the division. I’m like, great. You see what happened to him.”
Then came Joey Ruquet.
“Here comes Joey, a very durable fighter. Very tough, well-rounded, they said he was one of the most well-rounded fighters out there, and look what happened to HIM,” Lopez said.
Despite finishing his last two opponents due to punches, Lopez had an epic hot take.
“It’s crazy that my striking is the worst part of my game,” Lopez said. “And how scary is that. The best part of my game is how I transition from my striking to my wrestling. When the fight hits the ground, I just demolish anybody.”
Lopez hasn’t had to use his wrestling in either of his last two fights. His opponents never got the chance to find out.
“We haven’t even seen it,” Lopez said. That’s the scary part.”
Fighting a well-rounded opponent like Lopez will be a challenge for whomever Combate Americas decides will get the next shot at the belt.
“The question now is what’s going to be peoples’ gameplans fighting me,” Lopez said. “Are you going to strike with me, see what happens, gamble there. Or are you going to try to take me down? I feel like my grappling is the best in Combate.”
Whatever direction Combate Americas goes regarding Gustavo Lopez, this is a guy who’s only getting better and will have fans waiting on the edge of their seats to see what he does next.
“We have another title fight coming up in Mexicali. We’ll see what we’re going to do with that.”