LAS VEGAS – It's not often that brothers reach great heights in two separate sports. It's even more rare when they do it in the same month. However, Las Vegas natives Ulysses and Herculez Gomez, who are just 13 months apart in age, achieved just that in this month of May.
The younger brother Ulysses Gomez, known as "Useless" -- a nickname he uses with pride due to his self-deprecating sense of humor, has been a force in the national and international jiu-jitsu, submission grappling, and pankration scene for a better part of the past decade. After crossing over into professional Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) in March 2008, the Marc Laimon protégé strung together an impressive record of 5-1 with all 5 of his victories coming by way of submission and his lone loss coming via decision to top-ranked Rambaa Somdet. This earned "Useless" a coveted title shot for the Tachi Palace Fights (TPF) flyweight (125-pound) world championship.
The title fight took place at the Tachi Palace Hotel and Casino in Lemoore, California on Wednesday, May 5, 2010 in the main event of TPF 4 - Cinco de Mayhem. "Useless" set the pace early, after landing a series of heavy uppercuts in the first round, and never let up the pressure over the course of his competitive 5 round, 25 minute title bout with Luis "Speedy" Gonzales. His efforts paid off with a hard-fought unanimous decision victory, which was rewarded with the TPF flyweight world title wrapped around his waist.
The day after Ulysses won the TPF flyweight title, it was then announced that he would be moving up a weight class, after signing to be part of the third season of Bellator Fighting Championships (BFC), as a participant in its bantamweight (135-pound) tournament. Ulysses is now the third confirmed participant in Bellator’s bantamweight tournament along with Kansas City native Danny Tims and Hawaii native Mark Oshiro. The thrid season of Bellator begins August 12th and will be televised live every Thursday night on FOX Sports Net and again during taped Saturday night Bellator highlight shows on NBC, Telemundo, and the cable network mun2.
Less than a week later after winning his first MMA title and signing with Bellator, Ulysses then turned his attention to his older brother Herculez Gomez, who had been named to the U.S. National Team provisional 30-man World Cup roster on May 11th by U.S. Soccer head coach Bob Bradley. This 30-man roster had been named exactly one month before the FIFA World Cup of Soccer is set to kick off on June 11th in South Africa. The World Cup is the most prestigious soccer tournament in the world, which takes place every four years between 32 qualifying nations. In the world of soccer, known as the "global game", this tournament surpasses the prestige and importance of even soccer competition at the Olympics.
Being named to the 30-man provisional roster was an accomplishment in and of itself, as Herculez was facing an uphill battle to even be noticed by U.S. Soccer at the end of last year. Herculez was facing the natural difficulty of being noticed by U.S. Soccer, since he is not a product of the Olympic Development Program or an NCAA Division I powerhouse team. Then after two knee surgeries and an inconsistent season with the Kansas City Wizards in Major League Soccer (MLS), where the Wizards decided not to renew his contract, Herculez was facing even greater odds.
However, a new year brought a new beginning for the naturally gifted striker, as Herculez signed with Mexican first division club Puebla F.C. in January 2010. Herculez went on to score 10 goals in 14 appearances for Puebla in the 2010 Mexican Clausura to tie for the lead for most goals. This accomplishment marked the first time any American player led a foreign league in goals. More importantly, it attracted the attention of U.S. Soccer just in time for the final World Cup roster selections.
After being noticed and added to the 30-man World Cup roster on May 11th, Herculez then faced an even greater challenge of making the final cut, as a final 23-man roster was to be announced after a 10-day training camp that began on May 15th in Princeton, New Jersey that was capped with a international friendly match against the Czech Republic at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut on May 25th.
Herculez made the most of his opportunity by heading in an equalizing goal for the U.S. in the 66th minute of their game against the Czech Republic. The U.S. would eventually lose the friendly, but coach Bob Bradley said the goal cemented Herculez's spot on the World Cup squad. Herculez and the U.S. team will meet with President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton at the White House (-- Herculez has also met with former President George W. Bush due to past soccer accomplishments), before playing a friendly match against Turkey on Saturday. The U.S. team will then board a plane to South Africa on Sunday, where they will play a final tune-up friendly match against fellow World Cup qualifier Australia on June 5th. The World Cup begins on June 11th in South Africa with Herculez and the rest of the U.S. team beginning play the following day against powerhouse England.