Thetford fighter ready for his big shot
From a little town, in a little corner of East Anglia, lies a boxing gym — and from it could come the next big name in professional Mixed Martial Arts.
Andre Goncalves has certainly taken a big step in the right direction, after signing a professional contract with Bellator, a direct competitor to the perhaps better-known UFC.
The 28-year-old has been involved in MMA since childhood, but only turned professional three years ago.
He has had five fights in this time, winning three, losing one and drawing one.
But his fight on November 10 will be the first for Bellator, a major MMA promoter.
Goncalves, who is originally from Portugal but made Thetford his home at 11 years old, is scheduled to compete in front of 12,000 people in the 3Arena in Dublin next month.
The Tsunami Gym Norfolk fighter trains every day to stay as fit as possible and feels he has been ready for this step for a while.
He said: “I’ve not reached my full potential yet I don’t think. I can compete at the top, I’m sure of it, I’ve always felt I had the ability.
“So the chance has come at the right time, I’m not getting younger. I’m looking forward to the fight a lot, it’s going to be tough but I’m confident.
“I’m also being underestimated, and that just makes me feel even more confident.
“I know I’m the underdog, I don’t have that many professional fights under my belt but records don’t mean anything.
“Everyone started with only a few fights, even the biggest stars. And if I land just one big punch that can be it over — but the same goes the other way.
“Anything can happen in MMA, I think that’s one of the main reasons behind the sport’s growing popularity.
“But whatever happens, I’m going to give it everything and come away from the contest with no regrets.
“A win would be massive, it would basically launch me in the business, it would help me to believe I can achieve something in the industry.
“It makes me really proud to reach this next stage in my fighting experience and I will learn a lot to take me into the next fight.
“It’s been a dream of mine for a while and I made the decision, when Bellator came knocking, to really go for it.
“If I try and it doesn’t happen I won’t have regrets but you can’t win if you’re not in.”
Goncalves mostly trains with his coach, and surrogate father figure, Lee Doski at the The Tsunami Gym Norfolk in Thetford, although he often needs to travel for the training facilities.
He said: “I’m now in the realms of competing against top class athletes and to be at this level, physically, I have to travel to access the facilities.
“And that’s how the next generation get inspired. Who knows, maybe someone who watches me train will see me as the next big MMA fighter and want to replicate it.
“It’s just a great thing for the gym, the town and, of course, me and my family.”