UFC vet Jorge Gurgel wasn't a No. 1 fighter, but 'being an interpreter, I think I'm the best at it'

11 March 2018

We’ve seen enough memorable post-fight interviews to understand that, when it comes to MMA, a fighter’s level of success in any given night is not exclusively defined by how he or she handles the competition.

Handling the mic, too, has proven to be a valuable skill.

So what happens to those who have a language barrier keeping them from properly relaying their messages to a wider audience?

They need to trust people such as ex-fighter, coach and now interpreter Jorge Gurgel who have only a few minutes to process, memorize, summarize and put those thoughts into a different language.

For some, it might seem like a mere matter of input and output, from language A to language B. But Gurgel, who was in charge of interpreting for the Brazilian fighters in action on March 3 at UFC 222, wouldn’t put his job in such simple terms.

“For you to want to see somebody fight, it’s easier if you know their personality,” Gurgel told MMAjunkie Radio. “So if they don’t speak the language, it’s my absolute job to make the English-speaking crowd understand and get to know the person as much as they possibly can, through my words, because they don’t speak English.

“I really think there’s a big responsibility.”

One side of it, of course, is the technique. For example, there are different ways you go about language, including profanity, depending on whether you’re dealing with a network FOX broadcast or a pay-per-view card, where censors are rarely needed. There’s also the fight-specific lingo – one must know, for instance, that a “katagame” in Brazil is an arm-triangle choke for U.S. audiences. Not to mention, the varying accents spread throughout such a big country.

Which is why Gurgel, who said he’s had formal simultaneous translation training and even taught English in Brazil, makes sure his homework has been done ahead of broadcasts.

But there’s also a less tangible aspect of it. Unless you want to end up with a monotone, robotic-sounding interview, relaying a post-fight message is about more than simply getting the words right. And that, Gurgel said, is when someone who’s been exactly where those fighters stand can really bring something to the table.

“The fans and everybody else need to feel what they’re feeling and feel the emotion form,” Gurgel said. “Me, having been a fighter that fought in the UFC and in Strikeforce and has been employed by Zuffa for a decade, it’s a lot easier for me to understand.

“I know the coaches, I know a lot of the fighters, to understand, ‘What is the message? How do I make the fans feel what the fighter is feeling?’”

An alum of “The Ultimate Fighter 2,” Gurgel (14-10) went on a 3-4 UFC run before moving on to Strikeforce, where he fought six times. He retired in 2014, on the heels of personal tragedy and off a Titan FC 27 loss, but he remains involved in the sport as a coach.

The interpreting seed was planted in 2010, when Gurgel was asked to do a one-off translating gig for former UFC light heavyweight Thiago Silva, ahead of a bout with ex-champ Rashad Evans. After that, Gurgel kept hearing questions as to why he wasn’t doing more of it and, shortly thereafter, he began to ask those questions himself.

So Gurgel went after producers and offered to put his qualifications to the test with an audition, if need be.

“The more I did, the more I became confident,” Gurgel said. “Practice makes perfect. I kept doing it, kept doing it. And they called me for the great ones.”

Instagram Photo

The money isn’t amazing, and Gurgel isn’t in need of it. But with this role, he gets a chance to stay involved, hang out with some old friends and, who knows, even help some careers along in the process.

“Joe (Rogan) is there, Jon Anik is there, (UFC light heavyweight champ) Daniel Cormier,” Gurgel said. “I sit at the best seat in the house. I still watch the greatest fights. I just got to watch Frankie Edgar fight, man. And (Cris) Cyborg. And I was there in the first seat. It’s nothing to do with pay. It’s awesome to be still involved with the UFC and also being a positive light and voice for the Brazilian fighters. To be able to translate their message more clearly.

“Maybe I wasn’t the best fighter. I never was. But being an interpreter, I think I’m the best at it. And I’m very very blessed and fortunate that I took the initiative to go after the job – and the UFC having trust in me, (production company) Concom having trust in me, to keep me doing that job.”

For more on the UFC’s upcoming schedule, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

MMAjunkie Radio broadcasts Monday-Friday at 1 p.m. ET (10 a.m. PT) live from Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino’s Race & Sports Book. The show is hosted by “Gorgeous” George Garcia, Brian “Goze” Garcia and Dan Tom. For more information or to download past episodes, go to www.mmajunkie.com/radio.

Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie

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