Gamburyan aiming to be first to stop WEC champ

GLENDALE — As the most monumental fight in Manny Gamburyan's career approaches fast, the tenacious mixed-martial-artist is clearly taking on the magnitude of his title opportunity and the task of facing World Extreme Cagefighting featherweight champion Jose Aldo straight on.

During a Monday conference call, Gamburyan didn't hesitate in proclaiming that he was confident he could upset Aldo — seen by most as a phenom in the sport as the 145-pounder is ranked by many as one of the top five pound-for-pound fighters in the world — but that he would have to be at his best to do so.

And, in contrast to the co-main event's participants, lightweight rivals Jamie Varner and Donald Cerrone, Gamburyan and Aldo have boasted nothing but respect for each other en route to their Sept. 30 showdown in Broomfield, Colo., when they headline WEC: Aldo vs. Gamburyan.

"I respect him, but I'm gonna go out there and show the fans that anybody can be stopped," Gamburyan said. "I want to be the first guy to stop him."

At the same time, Gamburyan (11-4) realizes that's something that will be no small feat.

"I have to bring my 'A' game," he said.

A dynamic striker with a stellar submission background, Aldo (17-1) has won 10 fights in a row, his last seven under the WEC banner and has not lost since the end of 2005.

"Obviously, Jose Aldo has dominated the weight class," said WEC General Manager Reed Harris.

Gamburyan is also on a hot streak of his own, with three straight victories, all of them for the WEC. His last two were particularly notable as he decisioned Leonard Garcia in November of last year and then knocked out former featherweight champion Mike Brown in the first round of their April bout.

"He's absolutely done everything we've expected from him and more," Harris said.

Gamburyan came to the WEC after a five-fight tenure in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, a sibling company of the WEC. A finalist on "The Ultimate Fighter," Gamburyan made a name for himself in the UFC, but his 5-foot-5 has clearly translated better into the WEC's 145-pound featherweight division.

"That was the best move I've made in my life," Gamburyan said. "Here I am fighting for the belt."

Just how big the fight is to Gamburyan, a black belt in judo, was evidenced when he compared the bout to his dream of competing for an Olympic medal in judo.

While Aldo's mix of submission skills and a striking style that involves kicks, knees and punches is tough to prepare for, Gamburyan's judo game is unrivaled in the division and one of the best in MMA.

"If Manny can inflict that on Jose, Jose's gonna have a tough time with it," Harris said.

Said Aldo through a translator: "Manny's wrestling, his judo and also his heavy hands are what [I] have to watch out for the entire fight."

When asked what attributes he possesses to possibly dethrone the current WEC featherweight king, among other things, Gamburyan said, "I have the power, I have the dedication."

That dedication is often seen in training sessions at the Glendale Fighting Club and the Main Event Gym in Glendale, where Gamburyan often trains along with Team Hayastan in Hollywood and SK Golden Boys in Van Nuys. Gamburyan trains with a wealth of pro fighters that include Glendale's Sako Chivichyan, Karen Darabedyan and Sevak Magakian.

Gamburyan also said that his training, which has seen him develop a strong boxing game, particularly with his time in Glendale, has been going very well.

"I'm in a great place," he said. "I'm having a great camp."

No matter what Gamburyan says or does leading into the bout, he's still likely to be seen as an overwhelming underdog, much as he was before he knocked out Brown. But going forward, Gamburyan certainly doesn't seem intimidated by the favorite.

"Every fighter has holes in his game," Gamburyan said. "Of course I see holes in his game."

As for being the underdog once again, a 4-1 underdog currently in Las Vegas, he said it really offers no extra motivation and will not play a part in the bout.

"It's better for my friends," Gamburyan joked, "so they can bet on it."

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