Maurice Greene has himself quite the setup to kick off his 2020 campaign: a main card showdown against a veteran opponent on a fight card headlined by two of the biggest stars in the sport.
“The Crochet Boss” will take on Aleksei Oleinik this Saturday at UFC 246. The event takes place at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas and will be headlined by a welterweight matchup between the returning Conor McGregor and Donald Cerrone.
Greene is looking to get back in the win column after suffering a first-round TKO loss at the hands of Sergey Pavlovich at October’s UFC on ESPN+ 20 event in Singapore. With the opportunity to open some eyes against a veteran of over 70 professional fights, the 33-year-old Greene is ready to kick off the year in a big way.
“It feels great,” Greene told The Body Lock. “I get to fight at the beginning of the year and start the year off right. I got a real tough opponent ahead of me.
“It’s gonna be great to get a little more eyes on me with the main event and some of the other boys on the card as well. Ultimately, it’s time to put my name in their mouths but you can’t do that if you’re not performing. So I’m just gonna continue what I’ve been doing, nothing’s really gonna change from the bout against Sergey. I thought I fought well against Sergey but I got caught, this is the heavyweight division. But I’m healthy and it’ll be nice to go to Vegas and not have to go out the country.”
The 42-year-old Oleinik brings a reputation and a slick submission game to the table in his quest to snap a two-fight losing streak. “The Boa Constrictor” was finished in the first round in his last two fights against Walt Harris and Alistair Overeem as he looks to pick up his first victory in the Octagon since submitting Mark Hunt in September 2018.
When Greene received word he was fighting a fighter with a name like Oleinik’s, the Factory X product didn’t feel anything different than he’s felt with any other fight that was offered to him in the past.
“[My reaction was] it’s time to knock him down,” Greene explained. “I don’t get super excited, or the butterflies inside. It’s a big fight, big name, yeah, he has a lot of fights, but take the name away from the person and he’s just another man standing on the other side of the cage. I’ve said it a million times, it doesn’t matter what it looks like on paper. It matters who shows up to fight and you best believe I’m gonna show up to fight, and I’m sure he will as well.”
In his 57 career wins, Oleinik has won 45 of those via submission — including five in the UFC. One would assume that Greene might drop everything and focus solely on his takedown and submission defense in preparation for Saturday night’s heavyweight showdown.
Greene, and his team, looked at things a bit differently.
“I’m working on everything. I always do jiu-jitsu,” Greene said. “I usually do a lot of jiu-jitsu with my head [jiu-jitsu] coach Brock Larson. Lately, I’ve had to take a step back to heal up some stuff, but ever since we signed the contract we were back on it. We’re always working takedown defense, that’s always a part of it. As far as submissions, it’s cool. He’s a black belt but a black belt in MMA is different than a black belt in a gi. He’s very slick but you are going to fight guys who are better than you in some areas., you just got to rise to the occasion and be better than them. I’ve been working on everything wholeheartedly and we have a nice game plan that I know gives us the win.
“Why should I have to change everything because of my opponent? Does that mean I’m playing his game? Or do I go out there and just be free? That’s the freest time of my whole life. I don’t have to think about anything. I don’t have to think at all, I just go. I’m gonna go out and have fun, be me, from the first bell to the last bell and the world will see what the heavyweight division has in store for them.”
To get to where Maurice Greene ultimately wants to be in 2020 — which is in the title conversation — he has to start the year off right with a victory on Saturday night against a tough, seasoned opponent. Greene isn’t putting any extra pressure on himself, he’s choosing to pass that pressure along to Alexei Oleinik when the Octagon cage door locks in Las Vegas.
“Put the pressure on him: all gas, no brakes,” Greene said when asked about how he sees the fight playing out. “We’ll see who falls first. We both hit hard, there’s no qualms about that. He’s got really good grappling so there’s some things we have to worry about with him and we’ve worked on those things. There’s a lot he has to worry about with me, maybe not. Maybe he’s not worried at all. It doesn’t matter to me. All I know is that they’re gonna get the best Maurice, the best they’ve seen in the last few fights and get back into the win column.”