Frank Sinatra sang it best. “If I can make it there, I'm gonna make it anywhere.”
Despite being born in Jersey City, Chris Gutierrez was the “bad guy” when facing Garden State icon Frankie Edgar last November.
In Madison Square Garden. In New York City, where the lights shine brighter than they do anywhere. But Gutierrez wasn’t rattled.
“I dealt with it the best that I could,” he said. “I've always been the type of person to fly under the radar because I've never been loud, obnoxious or anything like that. But it's part of the sport that comes with the territory. So I enjoyed it. I found a really good balance point.”
Gutierrez took that balance into the Octagon and performed as if Edgar was just another fighter. He wasn’t and “El Guapo” admits that there was a “pinch me” moment just before the fight began.
“Of course, if I said I didn't do that, I'd be lying,” he said. “But, at the end of the day, I have a job to do, and I have my own legacy to solidify and my own things that I want to accomplish. So I just removed the name and the face and it was just a body.”
And at 2:01 of the first round, Gutierrez knocked Edgar out on the sport’s biggest stage. Then it was back to work. No fanfare, no vacation, just the grind.
“I don't think that I've gotten the respect that I've earned just yet,” he said. “I think I still got some more things to do before that.”
That’s a healthy way for a fighter to think, especially one rising rapidly up the bantamweight ranks like Gutierrez, who faces perennial contender Pedro Munhoz this Saturday in Kansas City. And if the 31-year-old ever needs a reminder, all he needs to do is walk into the Factory X gym in Englewood, Colorado.
“I think Coach Marc Montoya said it the best: ‘You're never as good as they say you are, and you never suck as bad as they say you do.’”
Gutierrez is pretty damn good, though. Unbeaten since a loss in his UFC debut to Raoni Barcelos in 2018, is unbeaten in eight fights, with seven wins and one draw against Cody Durden. Yet despite this run of success, the 13th ranked contender is staying as hungry as ever.
“They say, you're only as good as your last win. Okay, fine, I went in there and I got the job done, but here we are, four or five months later, and I got to go do it again. So yeah, I still think of myself as I'm this newbie coming up to the rankings and I got a lot of things I got to still do before I can solidify my name.”
Beating Munhoz is a good start, considering that the Brazilian has faced everyone and their brother at 135 pounds over the last nine years, including Edgar, Sean O’Malley, Rob Font, Cody Garbrandt, Dominick Cruz, 2023 UFC Hall of Fame inductee Jose Aldo and current bantamweight boss Aljamain Sterling. If that’s not a test, nothing is.
“My objective is to go out there and beat Pedro Munhoz decisively in good fashion and wherever the fight goes,” said Gutierrez. “My job is not really looking forward. If my name is going to be solidified or if I'm going to get the respect I deserve, I like to speak with my actions, and if my actions don't give me the respect that is deserve, then I'll keep doing what I do.”
Work. It’s not glamorous, but it beats what Gutierrez thought was going to be his end game in life.
“I enjoy the hell out of it,” he said. “Where I come from, this doesn't happen to many people, and that's the reality. I always look at this, and it's like I'm dreaming every time because thinking back a couple years, man, I never envisioned this. I never saw this. I was going to be dead or in jail, to be honest. So the fact that I am doing as good as I am, it's like I'm living in a dream every day.”
Just don’t wake him, because 2023 is going to be his year.
“I don't want to go backwards in life,” said Gutierrez. “My backwards isn't a good. It's not what I want, and I can't go backwards. So I have to go forward. I don't have a Plan B.”
UFC Fight Night: Holloway vs Allen took place live from T-Mobile Center in Kansas City on April 15, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!