Gustavo Balart has outstanding credentials as a wrestler. He has represented his country at the biggest competitions in the world but the diminutive Cuban thinks he will need to rely on a different sort of skillset at ONE: ‘Battleground’ this Friday.

Opponent Ryuto Sawada also has a background in wrestling and Balart expects this contest to play out on the feet,

“I think this fight is going to take place more in the stand-up. He will try to take me to the floor. I will thwart those attempts and force him to stand up to exchange with me,” he said.

Speaking from previous experience as both a fighter and a fan Balart believes that bouts between two wrestlers rarely end up being decided on the ground,

“It is what happens many times when two wrestlers face each other. People think that they will see a great level of ground fighting, but it’s not like that.”

Extenuating circumstances

The 34 year old is on a run of three straight defeats. But he says there were extenuating circumstances for his knockout loss to Robin Catalan at ONE: ‘Masters of Fate’,

“In my last fight I had a knee injury and I couldn’t fight well. There were things that had an influence in relation to the fact that my cardio was not at a good level. I think I made a big mistake accepting that last fight. Now, I have prepared very well.”

Balart has been watching Sawada’s previous fights and thinks the Japanese fighter is limited,

“He is a good fighter but he is a very straightforward fighter. In his stand-up, he only uses his one-two,” Balart says.

Betting everything

Coming from a wrestling background Balart is in a better position than most to appreciate Sawada’s strengths. But the Cuban believes he is more well rounded,

“He is a good wrestler. That’s his great advantage (but) I have better stand-up and great boxing that will make the fight difficult. We have focused on his weaknesses and defects, the gaps where we will find our way to victory.”

Cuba is famous for producing boxers, particularly at the amateur level, and Balart is ready to ‘bet everything’ on his boxing,

“The fight will take place mostly on the feet, since we both know the other is good on the canvas. That’s why they bet everything on their boxing.”

Time will tell whether Balart and his team got their tactics right but he believes the gameplan will be vindicated when he secures his first ever ONE Championship win on Friday,

“I think I’ve already talked a lot about my preparation, about my tactics, and about the gaps that I have discovered for him. Once the fight is over and the referee raises my hand, people will know I was right with my plan.”