Mateusz Gamrot, arguably Europe’s top lightweight and KSW’s dual-weight champion, returns to action for the first time in nearly twenty months Saturday to defend his title against interim champion and longtime foe Norman Parke.
The pair will compete in their third bout against one another, with Gamrot leading the series 1-0, 1 NC, in the main event of the Polish promotion’s first event back amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prior to the event, The Body Lock was able to ask several questions of Gamrot and recent developments in his career.
Gamrot analyzed the matchup with Parke, explained his recent absence from active MMA competition, and shared his desire to compete in the UFC.
The written question-and-answer has been included below, lightly edited for clarity.
Fiedel: KSW 53 marks your anticipated return to the cage after a nearly 20-month absence from fighting. What led to such a long break from MMA, and how does it feel to be back in another Fight Week again?
Gamrot: “At the beginning, I was negotiating with the KSW and this took almost a year. I was supposed to return to the cage in March, against a Brazilian opponent, but then COVID-19 happened. So, that’s pretty much why I didn’t fight for so long. But I guarantee, I haven’t wasted any of those days, improving every day to be the best.”
Fiedel: KSW is returning now amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has in many countries brought things to a standstill. How have you been during the quarantine, and how have COVID-19 restrictions changed your daily life and training?
Gamrot: “COVID-19 stopped the whole world. Our lives slowed down, but I found positives in this madness. I spend more time with my family. I was training outdoors, focusing on boxing and motor skills.”
Fiedel: Did you have any concerns about fighting during the pandemic? What rules and protocols has KSW put together ahead of this event? Have you been tested for the coronavirus? If so, could you describe your experience being tested ahead of the fight?
Gamrot: “There are no concerns on my side. I follow the restrictions and live a healthy life. I’m sure I will be tested before the event.”
Fiedel: During your absence from the KSW cage, many reports surfaced that appeared to claim that you were interested in fighting for the UFC, or that there were problems with your contract with KSW. Could you explain a little bit more about your negotiations with KSW, and whether you plan on signing with the UFC after your next fight or in the future?
Gamrot: “I’m happy how things turned out with KSW. At last, I’m going to have two more fights for them and after that, I’m going to be a free agent. My goal is to go to the UFC and compete against the best in the world. Big up to KSW, I’m thankful.”
Fiedel: Following your next fight, what is your contract status with KSW? Do you have any fights left on your deal, and is there a “champions” clause in your contract that keeps you under the KSW banner as long as you have a title there?
Gamrot: “I have a temporary deal with the KSW, which consists of two fights. I hope I will sign with the UFC by the end of the year.”
Fiedel: You are a two-weight champion with KSW, holding both the featherweight and lightweight titles in the promotion. What led you to decide to move down to featherweight and fight Kleber Koike Erbst for a second title in a new weight class?
Gamrot: “I had an offer to fight for the featherweight belt while being the lightweight champion. It never happened before in this organization, so I took it. My everyday shape and weight were at such level that I could go down to featherweight without problems.”
Fiedel: Would you ever return to featherweight to defend that title? In our recent interview with KSW boss Martin Lewandowski, he said it was unlikely that you would return to featherweight. Is that accurate?
Gamrot: “I’m staying at lightweight. That’s where I feel like a beast.”
Fiedel: While you were away from KSW, the promotion named two interim champions – Norman Parke at lightweight, Saladine Parnasse at featherweight. You are set to fight Parke in your third fight together on July 11. How do you feel about the fight, and about Parke as a competitor?
Gamrot: “Norman, as a sportsman is a solid fighter. He beat all of his polish opponents, except me. He puts a lot of pressure and has a strong chin, but that’s it. After competing against him twice, i know what to expect – it’s gonna be easy money.”
Fiedel: There’s a lot of bad blood between you and Parke. Why do you think the animosity between you two is there? Do you think it has to do with the results of your first two fights, one of which you won and the other of which was a No Contest following the “biting” incident?
Gamrot: “I think he can’t handle losing to me twice. That’s why he’s emotional and aggressive toward me.”
Fiedel: Having fought Parke twice already, how would you describe his fighting style and ability? How do you see this fight playing out, on the feet or on the ground? Finally, what is your official prediction for the fight?
Gamrot: “He’s tough and keeps moving forward. That’s it. Your head doesn’t get stronger with the amount of punches you take, so I will knock him out or submit him on the ground.”
Fiedel: In addition to MMA, you have also pursued submission grappling in recent months, including facing off with Garry Tonon at the ADCC championships. What was the ADCC experience like, and did training grappling so extensively to prepare for those matches give you any new perspectives or strategies when grappling in MMA?
Gamrot: “It was an amazing experience. ADCC Worlds is like a Champion’s League in BJJ, so I’m proud I could compete there twice. Garry Tonon is my idol and I watch all of his matches. I wasn’t lucky with the brackets, but I’m happy I could fight against the best.”
Fiedel: Poland is a country that has produced a large number of top fighters, including foreigner UFC champion Joanna Jędrzejczyk, light heavyweight contender Jan Blachowicz, KSW legend Mamed Khalidov, and many more, including you. With promotions like KSW, FEN, Babilon MMA, and many others, what is the MMA scene like in Poland? Do you believe you will be the next Polish fighter to break into the mainstream?
Gamrot: “Polish MMA is top level. We have the mentality of real warriors and we always fight to the end. When I sign with the UFC, I will be the champion there.”
Fiedel: You’re now 29-years-old and 15-0, 1 NC in your career as a professional fighter, holding two titles in KSW. Following your bout with Parke, what’s next for you? Are there any contenders in KSW you’d like to face? Would you like to move on to the UFC or another promotion? If so, where?
Gamrot: “So far, the only thing that is on my mind is fighting Norman Parke. After KSW 53 we can talk about the future.”
Fiedel: What is your ultimate ambition for your career? Who, if any fighters come to mind, would be your “dream fights,” or ideal matchups?
Gamrot: “I want to be the best in the world! I know I’ve got what it takes to achieve that.”
Michael Fiedel is The Body Lock's deputy editor, a staff writer for FloCombat, and a Russell-Rice scholarship recipient at Vanderbilt University.