Gerald Meerschaert: Fighting Smart
On July 6th, Gerald Meerschaert defeated highly touted prospect Oskar Piechota and claimed his 4th victory under the UFC banner (28-9 overall, 4-1 UFC).
‘It does feel nice to be the guy to be the decided underdog and then get the victory. I’d watched his fights previously, but I didn’t know he was this huge prospect until I spoke to all of the interviewers on fight week’ Meerschaert said, when speaking with SpitballingPod recently.
During the course of the first round, Meerschaert was taken down, dropped via strikes and forced to defend a choke as the opening five minutes came to a close; ‘It didn’t look good, I definitely know that, but I feel like it looked worse than it really was’ he said. Onlooking spectators and fans at home believed that Piechota looked ready to close the show, live up to the hype and emerge as victor, but Gerald and his coaches had other ideas.
Recalling how he felt when sat on the stool ahead of round 2, ‘GM3’ said ‘Of course I’ll have more confidence in myself, I knew I got dropped, I was moving in, he was countering which made it worse. It was nothing that threw my vision off, I was still all there, it was a rough start. There’s a lot easier ways to get timing down but that definitely helped, I’ve been in that position a lot of times though and I knew I could find a way out’.
Against the odds, Meerschaert came back with a bang, he put the pressure on Piechota and continued to do so until eventually his opponent began to wear down and he could look for the finish. Once Piechota showed signs of hurt, Meershaert unloaded a barrage of strikes that could have feasibly dropped King Kong, but Piechota stood firm as if the soles of his feet had been glued to the canvas; ‘When I was hitting him there, in my head I’m just thinking ‘Why aren’t you falling over yet? What do I have to do? I’ve hit you with everything twice, I don’t even know if there are any other strikes that I can throw at this point’. I swear I actually heard someone tell me that it was a short time left in the round and there definitely wasn’t, there was like two minutes left, but in my head I think there’s like 30 seconds, so I’m going balls to the wall, throwing everything known to man, trying to finish this guy but at the end I’m like alright, there wasn’t a short time left but I’m glad I thought there was, as it lit a fire up my ass and got me to the finish’ he said.
The only shame about the fight was that it wasn’t later in the night; the bout opened the show at the Pearl Theatre in Las Vegas and could have taken the roof off the building if it had been higher up on the card. ‘The Machine’ agreed but could pick out the positives - ‘It’s nice that it was on fight pass, as it’s more accessible to go back and immediately watch it. But if we were on the main card or FS1 prelims, I think we both definitely earned a bonus with that one. My body of work is out there at least and hopefully next time I put on a show like that then there will be more there to see it’ he said.
As previously mentioned, Gerald’s most recent bout took place in Vegas, but 22 of his 37 previous bouts have taken place at home, in Wisconsin. When asked if he preferred fighting at home, or had any preference at all, he could see the positives in both – ‘To me it doesn’t make too much of a difference; I know the UFC is having a card in Milwaukee in December, so it would be pretty cool to fight there for the UFC, but I’d like to get one in before then and stay as active as possible. One of the reasons I got into fighting was because I knew I could travel the world, meet all different kinds of people and see all kinds of different cultures, while still doing something I love. So, I’m more than happy to travel’. ‘GM3’ also mentioned the possibility of fighting on the UFC’s upcoming trip to Moscow, although that card appears to now be filled.
Hailing from Wisconsin, you would imagine that Meerschaert would be a proud Green Bay Packers fan, but when the question was posed, he laughed for a moment before revealing the truth - ‘Alright, so I get a lot of flak for this, I was born and raised in Wisconsin, but I’m actually a Dallas Cowboys fan and my excuse for this is that I as brainwashed as a small child. I have family from Texas and my Dad was a Cowboys fan, it was great in the 90s, but not so much now. I used to root against the Packers, but it’s hard to now as I’ve met a few of them and they were all pretty cool guys’. It might have wise to keep this a secret until after the Milwaukee card later this year.
One thing that he does keep close to home is his training – ‘The Machine’ works under the tutelage of Duke Roufus, alongside fellow UFC contenders Paul Felder, Anthony/Sergio Pettis, Jared Gordon, Belal Muhammed and more. ‘It’s great - we’ve got some of the best coaches around, we also have a great jiu-jitsu coach with Daniel Wanderley, Duke Roufus and Scott Fisherman are our striking coaches and in my opinion they are the best around, just the way they explain things, it makes sense to me. People ask me if I went there just because it’s close and of course it makes it easier when that’s the case, but I just wanna go where I’m the best and whether I’m 40 minutes or 400 miles away, I’d make sure I’m there’ he said.
It's always interesting to know what goes on behind the scenes as fighters and coaches prepare for a fight; Some fighters like to leave it all to their coaches, whereas others like to take a more hands on approach. When it comes to the task of watching film on future opponents, Gerald explained that this is a process he is hands-on with - ‘I study tape myself too, I try not to obsess over it, I’ll watch it maybe 2-3 times, I’ll watch a few fights but not watch for anything crazy, just habits, what have I seen change, what have I seen that’s the same and that can help my decision making process with what I’d like to work on. People say they only like to work on themselves, which isn’t bad, but you need to look at the probability that you may end up in a certain position and then you can specifically work on that’.
On the other end of the spectrum too, some fighters like to watch themselves back (and are often their own harshest critics), whereas others prefer to just stay in the moment. Much like when preparing, Meerschaert likes to watch his own fights back too ‘I try to watch my own fights back a few times and from a different perspective each time, like one time as a fan and decide whether I’d like to pay money to see someone fight like this. It’s an entertainment business at the end of the day. I also look to see what I’ve improved on, what I’ve slipped up on etc’ he said.
Going back to where we started, it’s always interesting to know what motivates people to fight; when Meerschaert was asked this question he responded honestly, saying ‘Just a love of fighting and competition. At the end of the day, when you have a big guy in front of you trying to rip your head off it all comes down to you saying ‘I don’t care whatever you hit me with, but I’m gonna come back even stronger and not give up’.
As for when we can expect to see the American back in the Octagon, the answer seems to be ‘as soon as possible. ‘I’m not picky, that was my 5th UFC fight, I’ve not fought anyone ranked, I don’t think I’m a main card guy yet but I want to get there. I’m healthy now, if I can fight by mid to late September and then again in Milwaukee then that would be great’ he said.
There was a time when as soon as you hit 30 then you were considered to be in the closing stages of your career, but you only need to look at the success of the likes of Daniel Cormier, Michael Bisping and Yoel Romero to see that you can now have success when hitting your 40s, so long as you treat your body in the right way. When asked as to how long he feels he’ll be fighting, Meerschaert certainly isn’t ready to hang his gloves up just yet - ‘I think I’ve got another 10 years in me if I keep fighting the way that I am now. We’ll see how it goes, but I’m not one of those guys that will seriously risk my health just for a paycheque. I’m a smart enough guy where if I need to figure something else out then I will. It looks like I’m gonna take a lot of damage sometimes but if you look at my submissions for example then I think it shows that I not quite fight safe, but I think I fight smart and don’t take unnecessary risks’
Looking towards a career outside of the octagon, ‘GM3’ references the analyst work of his teammate Paul Felder as a path that he’d like to head down. ‘I think I’m articulate and knowledgeable enough to really bring something and explain it in a way that would really engage with people and help them learn and understand a bit more about what’s going on’ he explained.
As hard as it may be to believe, Gerald explained that he once had aspirations of becoming a music teacher, before he eventually found his way inside of the cage. ‘I really hadn’t put too much thought into what I wanted to do, I had been in a jazz band since I was in grade school and I went to university briefly for that, and that’s where I also started training MMA and I realised I liked punching people in the face a whole lot better!’ he recalled.
If you were introducing Meerschaert to someone that was yet to see him fight, the first direction you would point them in would be his save body-kick knockout of Eric Spicely. It would have been criminal to not ask him about this moment while we had his time, and he recalled the moment for us ‘I really knew when I threw it that it was like a finisher. I felt like my shin went to the other side of his body and even internally I was looking at him and thinking ‘ooh that sucked’. When you have the crowd groaning instead of cheering then you know it was a good shot!’.
Until he returns to the octagon, you can see the body-kick in question below, or check out his bout with Oskar Piechota on UFC Fight Pass now