For those who have not yet heard of Gaston, you’re going to be hearing a lot more. Gaston, a young heavyweight prospect based out of Indiana, currently has a 4-2 amateur record but thanks to wins in his last four fights, he has many fight insiders from the Midwest talking about him.
It’s that buzz that prompted King of the Cage officials to sign Gaston to make his pro debut in the main event of tonight’s “Connection” card at Lake of the Torches Resort and Casino in Lac du Flambeau, Wisconsin.
Gaston is set to square off against Michael Westbrook, who was featured earlier this year on MTV’s hit reality show Bully Beatdown and is probably even more well known as a fourth overall pick by the Washington Redskins in the 1995 NFL Draft.
Westbrook came into the NFL as a highly-touted prospect but never reached his full potential. Off-the-field incidents such as his alleged assault in 1997 against teammate Stephen Davis overshadowed his performance on the field.
Westbrook experienced a great deal of criticism because he had been training in martial arts at the time and he used his technique to injure a fellow player who did not have the same training in combat. But tonight, Westbrook will be fighting an opponent in Gaston who is well-trained in the martial arts and more than capable of fighting back.
Gaston, known around the Midwest circuit for having impressive Muay Thai skills, has his sights on knocking out Westbrook and starting off his pro career the right way. Despite making final preparations for his fight, Gaston took time out to speak with FiveOuncesOfPain.com.
FiveOuncesOfPain.com: Your reputation as a standup fighter is strong and more and more people are becoming familiar with you. Can you talk about how you were able to develop your standup skills?
Nick Gaston: I developed my standup on a fight by fight bases. If I can take advantage of an opponent’s weakness, I will. I also keep an open mind on all techniques and anything that somebody has to show me. Because once you get closed minded and get stuck in a given system you lose your unpredictability.
FiveOuncesOfPain.com: What made you decide to get into MMA?
Nick Gaston: I did wrestling in high school and while walking on for Ohio State I started boxing under John Johnson, who was the trainer for Buster Douglas when he beat Mike Tyson. I found boxing to be to limiting a sport, I wanted to knee people in the clinch and head kick people so MMA was a better fit for me.
FiveOuncesOfPain.com: Who were some of the fighters who influenced you to get involved with martial arts?
Nick Gaston: Most definitely Anderson Silva, “Rampage” Jackson and Shinya Aoki, and “Minotauro” Nogueria.
FiveOuncesOfPain.com: You are scheduled to fight Michael Westbrook this weekend for King of the Cage. He’s a tremendous athlete but didn’t have the best reputation while competing in the NFL. Is this just another fight for you or has some of the things he done in the past motivated you in your training?
Nick Gaston: (He’s) just another opponent to me.
FiveOuncesOfPain.com: There are a lot of former NFL players trying their hand at MMA. Guys like Westbrook, Jarrod Bunch, Bobby Jones, Marcus Jones, and Herbert Goodman. These are athletes who have had already had the chance to make hundreds of thousands of dollars — in some cases millions of dollars — in a season. Do you feel like maybe fighters such as Westbrook are coming in and trying to steal your opportunities?
Nick Gaston: I feel that they get special treatment for having a name in a sport that has nothing to do with MMA. Which means bigger pay days for guys with less experience and less time to hone their craft.
FiveOuncesOfPain.com: This will be your pro debut but you’ve fought pro-style rules while under amateur status. Do you feel like there’s added pressure coming into this fight?
Nick Gaston: Not really. The only thing that’s different about this fight is I’ll actually get money to have fun hurting someone.
FiveOuncesOfPain.com: Do you consider this the biggest opportunity of your career?
Nick Gaston: I guess it would be so far.
FiveOuncesOfPain.com: Recently you’ve been working with Dave Herman. What’s it like training with him and how has it helped your game?
Nick Gaston: Dave is an hell of an athlete and Nashville MMA has some of the best instructional BJJ in the game taught by Ray Casias and Shawn Hammonds.
FiveOuncesOfPain.com: There’s a buzz building around you right now. Where are some of the places people might be able to watch you compete following the Westbrook fight?
Nick Gaston: Right now I don’t have any thing setup at the moment.
FiveOuncesOfPain.com: What are your goals for the future? Where would you like to be a year from now?
Nick Gaston: I will be the best fighter ever. It’s only a matter of time and keeping healthy. A year from now I’ll be one of the biggest names in MMA.
FiveOuncesOfPain.com: What are some things that you’d like the MMA public to know about you?
Nick Gaston: First and formost I love all of the fans and supporters and would like to thank them for their support. I’m hungry and driven and here to put on the best fight possible. So keep your eyes and ears open.