By Conor Walsh
---- — The past year’s been a difficult one for local mixed martial arts start Pedro Gonzalez.
Once ranked No. 1 in New England, injury, personal issues and opponent dropouts have rendered Gonzalez inactive since last February.
That’s all set to change Saturday, though, when the 25-year-old Gloucester native makes his return to the cage against Dave LaChapelle in a Bantamweight battle as a part of “March Mayhem,” a Coliseum to the Cage sponsored event being held at SportsZone in Derry, N.H.
“I’m feeling really good,” Gonzalez said. “I’m back on track and my life’s on the right track. I had some personal issues going on. It’s been a rough year for me. Now I’m just focused on training.
“This year is the year that will make or break me. It’s either go full-force and make this my career, or look forward to something else. I really just want to see what I can do this year and push myself.”
At 5-foot-10 and 135 pounds, the 25-year-old Gonzalez quickly rose in the local ranks after his first official fight in September of 2009. He’s 8-5 in his career (six submissions), the high point of which came in May of 2011 when he knocked off the No. 1 Bantamweight in New England — Paul Gorman — in Portland, Maine by unanimous decision to claim the region’s top spot for himself.
He’s only fought once since then, though, dropping a three-round decision to Claudio Ledesma last February in Atlantic City.
That absence from the sport will end this weekend, when he goes up against an undefeated, largely unproven but highly regarded opponent in LaChapelle, who is ranked at the local level. Gonzalez stands five inches taller than the 27-year-old LaChapelle, who’s 2-0 in his professional career and 4-0 overall in his amateur career with a reputation as a wrestler with a strong right hand. He also trains out of a very reputable camp in South Shore Sport Fighting in Norwell, Ma.
Gonzalez, however, wasn’t concerned as he has been in the cage with fighters who possess the same skill-set as LaChapelle.
“I don’t think about them or their game plan,” Gonzalez said. “I’ve heard stories that he’s got a nice right hand and he trains with South Shore Sportsfighting, all good guys over there. I’m sure he’s going to bring it, but I’m very confident in this. I feel like I have more ways to beat him and I’m more experienced. I just want this bad. It’s been a year and this is something that I really want to do, so good luck to him I guess.”
Gonzalez’s confidence is only increased by his recent training change, as he joined Cambridge’s highly-regarded Redline Fight Sports two months ago.
With Redline’s wide array of coaching availability — stretching from Muay Thai to wrestling to Jiu Jitsu — coupled with his hunger to return to the ring, Gonzalez is feeling good about his return.
His weight is where it needs to be, his strategy is nearly set. Now, Gonzalez is just impatiently waiting.
But not just for his chance to fight again.
“I’d love to eat again,” Gonzalez said with a laugh. “I’m a fat kid at heart. I love food, that’s my thing. I’m always pretty much in shape, but I can’t wait to have my foods again. Carbs, carbs, carbs.”