UFC middleweight Gegard Mousasi admits that every now and then, he’ll log onto an Internet fan forum to see what’s being said about him.
He doesn’t always agree with what he finds.
Mousasi (34-3-2) will make his first appearance at middleweight since 2008 when he meets Lyoto Machida at UFC Fight Night 36 on Saturday in Jaragua do Sol, Brazil.
If there’s one knock on Mousasi’s sterling record thus far, it’s that he’s built it while facing lesser competition. Although he’s lost just three fights in the last 10 years, rarely if ever will you see his name on a pound-for-pound list.
“I don’t get a lot of credit,” Mousasi told ESPN.com. “When I fought Denis Kang, Renato Sobral and Melvin Mahoef (in 2008), they were much better then. At that time, Kang was on top. A couple years later, he was losing to everybody.
“When I beat [Ronaldo] Jacare Souza, he wasn’t a big name. Mark Hunt -- no one knew who these guys were. Now they are doing very well. It depends how people look at it and people usually look at it negatively with me.”
Mousasi knows he can do a lot to change that perception with a win over Machida, a former UFC light heavyweight champion who appears to be on the verge of another title shot following a first-round knockout over Mark Munoz in October.
On Wednesday, Mousasi shared his thoughts on that upcoming opportunity.
ESPN: Does it bother you that some observers criticize the level of competition you’ve faced?
Mousasi: I don’t know how people look at it. I’ve seen so many fighters getting knocked out. I’ve never been knocked out. I’ve never been hurt in a fight. But people don’t look at those things. Vitor Belfort has been knocked out a couple of times. No one looks at it that way. I’m a solid fighter. I don’t know. Everyone has an opinion, but I am always underrated.
ESPN: When you stopped cutting to middleweight in 2009, you said it was too difficult of a cut for you. What’s changed from then to now?
Mousasi: My last two fights (at light heavyweight) I didn’t cut a lot of weight. I was around 206 or 207 pounds. It makes sense cutting now. I think I always knew I was a little undersized. I perform better at 185 and I will get an easier title shot here.
ESPN: What makes you think a UFC title shot at 185 pounds is easier to earn than 205?
Mousasi: There are a lot of popular names in the light heavyweight division. At middleweight there isn’t a No. 1 contender. You have Vitor Belfort next and then no one is really in line. At 205, the next guy is Glover Teixeira, then you have Alexander Gustafsson and then Daniel Cormier or Rashad Evans. You have three guys in front of you at that weight. At middleweight, you only have Belfort.
ESPN: You’re well known for how calm you are in the cage. Has that always come naturally to you, and is it an advantage in a fight against an elusive guy like Machida?
Mousasi: When I was an amateur, I would go to knock guys out in the first minute. When you get experience, you know it doesn’t work like that. Emotion works against you. The less emotion, the more you use your brain and fight smart. I’ve been working on staying calm for this fight and I’ve seen Machida get frustrated, too. If he can’t do what he does, he’ll get frustrated.
ESPN: When you announced your intent to drop to 185 pounds, Anderson Silva was still the champion. Were you excited about the idea of a possible fight with him?
Mousasi: My goal was to fight for the belt. At that time, Anderson Silva was the champ, so of course I wanted to fight him. I was thinking about it. But I just want the belt. That’s my goal. Who has it now is not that important.
ESPN: Chris Weidman is the champ now, having beaten Silva twice. Curious though, who would be a tougher matchup for you, Silva or Weidman?
Mousasi: Hmm. Difficult. Very difficult. I would say, I think Anderson a little bit -- but not really. I don’t know. They are both equal. It’s too difficult to say.