Gutirrez looks to bounce back from loss, plus training and bouts hampered by pandemic.
EAST LANSING, Mich. – Mando Gutierrez has been through enough in his life to know losing isn’t something to worry about, especially for someone who calls MMA as his profession.
Gutirrez, a bantamweight fighter who was raised in Chicago and now fights out of Lansing, learned that lesson well recently.
“Losses are inevitable in this game,” Gutierrez, 24, said. “I’d be lying, though, if I said it was sunshine and rainbows since my last fight.”
That last fight was Gutierrez’s first loss of his professional career, submitting to a rear-naked choke from Mo Miller at the Legacy Fighting Alliance (LFA) 90 event last September.
“It was something I had never gone through before,” said Gutierrez.
Miller, currently 5-0, is a potential UFC prospect. He presented a challenge that the previously undefeated Gutierrez knows he has to move past in order to reach similar heights.
“The biggest takeaway is that I know I can handle anything, and I’ll be able to go out there and show the improvements I’ve made next time,” said Gutierrez.
While he expects to fight again soon, possibly within the next month, waiting for that next time after a loss is something that Gutierrez said can be tough early - especially when it’s a fighter’s first.
“Being a wrestler before, you would have to forget about it really quick. Now it’s a lot longer to wait and you’re only as good as your last fight,” said Gutierrez.
That wait has been amplified by having to live in a global pandemic.
COVID-19 has of course forced changes in peoples’ lives all over the world, and Gutierrez is no different.
He wasn’t able to have the same gym and training access he had been used to before, but Gutierrez didn’t let that make him lose focus.
“As far as training goes, not much has changed,” said Gutierrez. “It got a little tough right at the beginning because of the limits put in with how many people could train together. We got it solved though by just having teammates move in with me."
That process, bringing the training to him, meant making a gym in his own basement. He had to keep pushing himself to kee working, showing the kind of drive trainers say is needed to succeed in the fight game.
His roommate at the time, Justin Johnson, wasn’t at all surprised that Gutirrez created his own training atmosphere.
“He went the extra mile,” said Johnson. “It was kind of more his idea to make a gym down in the basement, and then he started calling people out to spar and match up.”
For Johnson, who owns his own gym, it was just another example of the championship level work ethic that Gutierrez has always had.
“A lot of people aren’t willing to put in the work, but he’s an absolute workhorse,” said Johnson. “Any fighters I know, he definitely works the hardest. He’s disciplined when it comes to dieting and all of that stuff.”
It’s that work ethic that’s kept Gutierrez from wasting any more time focusing on the loss.
“Losses are inevitable in this game,” said Gutierrez. “I think it’s really important how you bounce back, and I feel like this point I’m at right now will define my career.
“I’ve been working for so long, I can’t waste this opportunity.”
There’s also been no second thoughts from Gutierrez following the loss on if MMA is what he really wants to continue doing moving forward.
“No one’s really prepared for the first loss, but it’s about staying positive and motivated,” said Gutierrez. “This sport is made for tough people who can get through the tough times, and I’m not going to stop until I see this through.”
That’s because for Gutierrez, this isn’t just a hobby or a job. It’s the opportunity for him to get everything out of life that he possibly can. He wants to take care of his family and make up for past regrets, and MMA is his path toward to fulfilling those goals.
“I had quit wrestling earlier in my life and I regret that. This is my opportunity to right all those wrongs,” said Gutierrez. “I love winning, I love the self-fulfillment, it’s my favorite feeling on earth, and I want them to know that my best beat their best.
“Besides, I put food on the table by punching someone in the face, what’s better than that?”