Thursday, February 15, 2007

Fighter faces Ultimate challenge

LUDLOW - From the outside, the little storefront on East Street that houses the Marco Alvan Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Academy looks like any other martial arts school.

Inside, however, Alvan is helping his top protg and childhood friend from Brazil train for the biggest fight of his Ultimate Fighting Championship career.

Gabriel "Napao" Gonzaga, who moved to Ludlow last summer from Rio de Janeiro, is 3-0 on the UFC's pay-per-view events and holds a 7-1 overall mixed martial arts record.
That recent string of success has led to Gonzaga, 27, taking on his toughest challenge to date. On April 21 in Manchester, England, he will face one of the most feared fighters in the world - Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic - in the main event of "UFC 70."

"That's the most important commitment of my life," Gonzaga said through Alvan, his trainer and interpreter. "Everybody knows (Filipovic) is the No.1 fighter in the world at the moment."

Filipovic, a former anti-terrorism commando in the Croatian special police, has built a reputation in the mixed martial arts community for his devastating knockout power. He is especially proficient at ending fights with his high left-leg kicks to the head.

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