Last year was a breakout year for Jairzinho Rozenstruik. The hard-hitting heavyweight competed four times and earned four knockout victories.
In his most recent outing last December, the Surinamese fighter landed a rocket of a right hand on legend Alistair Overeem, decimating a portion of his upper lip with just five seconds remaining.
That win earned Rozenstruik the main event slot against Francis Ngannou, who is also known for his freakish one-punch knockout power. The two are set to throw down on March 28 in Columbus, Ohio, accompanied with a stacked card featuring the likes of Cody Garbrandt and Matt Brown.
He spoke with John Hyon Ko before his upcoming bout, including why he believes he’ll be the first to knock out Francis Ngannou.
Relocating to American Top Team
Jairzinho Rozenstruik (10-0) burst onto the MMA scene almost one year ago when he flatlined Junior Albini in his UFC debut. Little did we know that in the space of ten months, “Bigi Boy” would go from being a relatively unknown prospect to headlining events. Rozenstruik has climbed from unranked fighter to #5 in the UFC heavyweight rankings.
“I didn’t know it was going to go so fast,” Rozenstruik said. “Everything that happened last year, I thought would happen this year, so the process has been faster. We adjust to it and focus on the goal.”
Watching the heavyweight perform is quite the experience, as we found out in December. Just when everybody thought it was over, Rozenstruik once again sent shockwaves across the MMA world when he crushed Overeem with one punch.
After the fact, Overeem stated that he wasn’t looking at it as a loss in his eyes, as he won 24 minutes and 55 seconds of the contest. Unfortunately for him, MMA does not work like that.
“In his eyes, he thought he won the fight because it was an early stoppage, that’s what he’s saying. But in the end, I knocked him out and walked away.”
“Next fight there is going to be no hesitation. People aren’t going to say ‘hit him’ because I’m going to go until I can’t stop.”
Now that he is pounding on the door of the ‘heavyweight elite’ club, March 28 will do nothing but give answers for what the career of Jairzinho Rozenstruik entails. But for now, the 31-year-old is embracing each day as it comes.
“I try to enjoy every moment. It’s not easy. If I’m tired or think it’s enough, I take a couple of steps back and go in my own zone,” said Rozenstruik, talking about his new-found stardom. “People give me good wishes, give me love and it feels great, but sometimes you need space.”
The surging Suriname native has recently relocated to American Top Team, which operates in Florida. The gym is not only one of the best in the nation but is home to numerous high-level heavyweights, including former UFC champions Andrei Arlovski and Junior Dos Santos.
“Bigi Boy” spoke about what fueled his move to ATT in favor of continuing his training at Hard Knocks 365 (now Sanford MMA).
“Before the fight against Alistair I needed professional help. I didn’t have enough sparring partners at Hard Knocks and all the guys I used to train with were injured, so I needed to make a decision on what’s going to happen. So me and my coach went to our management and they advised us to go to American Top Team – we got all the help we needed.”
Hunting a predator
Standing at 6-foot-3-inches and weighing in at over 253 pounds, Francis Ngannou is a human specimen. He has one of the hardest punches ever recorded and knocked out his past three opponents, all in the first round.
In the space of a few years, Ngannou sent Overeem to the shadow realm with a blistering uppercut and utterly destroyed one of the best to ever do it in Cain Velasquez.
Rozenstruik and Ngannou have gone back-and-forth on social media, with the undefeated Rozenstruik going as far as to say he’ll knock out the former title challenger.
“Francis is number two in the world, and I want his spot. So the only thing that counts is winning this fight, taking his spot and going for the title shot after,” Rozenstruik said.
Although Curtis Blaydes and Daniel Cormier would disagree, it would be hard to decline him a title shot if he is able to walk through the bogeyman that is Francis Ngannou. Not many people would sign on a dotted line that allows a 253-pound man with supernatural knockout power to punch them in the face, but for Suriname’s favorite fighting son, its an opportunity.
“Nobody wants to fight him. He’s knockout everybody out of their face. I do the same! So what’s going to happen? If I land first, he goes to sleep. I’m going to be the first guy to knock his ass out.”
Rozenstruik already holds one record – the fastest knockout in UFC heavyweight history at just nine seconds. However, despite already holding one, the ferocious striker has his eyes on another.
“I’m looking for another record. If I beat him, I go 5-0 in the UFC with 5 KO’s, go for a title shot, take the title and make another record: six fights in the UFC and I’m champion. What’s better than that?”
On March 23, 300 people from Jairzinho Rozenstruik’s home country of Suriname plan to fly out in support of their national hero. He explained to John Hyon Ko how surreal he expects the experience to be, and why it makes him extra motivated heading into the fight.
“That’s going to be the craziest thing I’m going to see in my whole entire life. Its crazy – 300 people sitting there cheering for you, singing for you, saying your name, screaming your name out loud – it gives me more motivation.”
Before entering the world of mixed martial arts, Rozenstruik was an avid kickboxer, picking up 76 wins. It’s evident through his four fights in the UFC that kickboxing was a truly perfect base that has allowed him to successfully transition to mixed martial arts.
“I think its the best base because you start standing up. You don’t start laying on the ground. You start standing up, you touch gloves or not and start hitting each other. Before you go for the shot, it can be finished. The Allen Crowder fight… I knocked him out in nine seconds. It looked easy but it took a lot of work.”
“I have a lot of experience. 76 wins and 46 KO’s is not easy, it means I have a lot of experience. I did it over and over and over again, so I know exactly when I hit you hard. I know when you’re going to be dizzy, and I know if I give you one more, you’re going to be done. I can see it. So that for me is experience.
Steven specialises in MMA and Lethwei. He loves a good 1-2 down the middle.