Last year was one that Volkan Oezdemir would like to forget.
Despite an impressive 2017 campaign that propelled him to a light heavyweight title shot against Daniel Cormier, the Swiss knockout artist (14-3) was thoroughly dominated by the former Olympic wrestler at UFC 220 in January, losing via technical knockout in the second round.
Following his first UFC defeat, Oezdemir was expected to face Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Alexander Gustafsson, but both fights never came to fruition due to visa problems as well as multiple injury issues for the #5 ranked contender.
When he did finally return to the octagon, it was in a third-round submission loss to rising contender Anthony Smith in the main event of UFC Fight Night 138 in October.
Dealing with injuries
Speaking to John Hyon Ko of The Body Lock, Oezdemir revealed that he was injured heading into that fight with Smith, but felt obligated to participate after his previously canceled bouts.
“I was close to canceling the fight [because of the torn MCL], but then my ACL [was not going to] be affected. Last year I had like two unfortunate events where I was supposed to cancel my fights. So, you know, a third time was not going to happen. I went into the fight like this because I’m a fighter, I go in there with a strong mentality.”
“I went to check with a few doctors and they told me my ACL will not be affected by this. So knowing that, I went to the fight, without excuses and stuff. So this is not something I’m going to obviously say much about, but definitely it was a factor during my preparation and during the fight.”
More experienced fighter
Oezdemir acknowledges it was a tough past year, but has taken time off to heal, and is now looking to change his fortunes in 2019.
“No Time” will be facing undefeated light heavyweight contender Dominick Reyes (10-0) at UFC Fight Night 147 in London in an exciting matchup that could determine the next title challenger.
However, he is viewing the American the same way as his past opponents and believes he’s a much more experienced fighter now.
“Now I’ve been there for a while now. I started my career off fighting top guys and top prospects so Dominick is nothing different. It’s just me right now, I have way more experience and way more baggage with me because my first [UFC] fight was against OSP, who was ranked number six back in the day. The second fight was against one of the top prospects [Misha Cirkunov], 4-0 also [in the UFC at the time], all finishes, a little bit like Reyes. And that fight was a really quick fight. And again, you know, [Jimi] Manuwa, my title fight.”
“Now I have way more experience and I’m still facing the best of the best. It’s the UFC. Like everybody in the top 10 is tough, but it’s all about differences. And I know right now with all the experience I’ve amassed, I know what are those differences.”
Jones vs. Smith?
Smith’s win over Oezdemir propelled him into a title shot against current champion Jon Jones in the main event of UFC 235 in March.
Like the oddsmakers (and pretty much the majority of the MMA world), Oezdemir sees Jones winning, but isn’t ruling out what would probably be the biggest upset in UFC history.
“I think I’m still going to have to go with Jones but Anthony Smith is a surprising fighter. He’s durable and I think that’s one of his weapons — a way he’s going to upset everybody with Jon Jones.”
“He’s still there, he has tons of experience, a lot of long fights, and a lot of success and knockouts in the later rounds. Somebody you need to finish really quick and that’s something Jon Jones will have to do.”
Getting right back into the mix
As for Oezdemir, he’s looking to inflict a first defeat for Reyes before competing a couple more times in 2019.
“I want at least two or three victories. I want the fights to be rolling. This is going to be my first fight, but then I want the fights to be rolling really fast after again. Definitely, I want to have two fights against top guys.”
“Dominick Reyes is under me [in the rankings], but he also has a lot of momentum right now, a lot of hype. After this one, definitely I want to face somebody in the top five and depending on the situation with the title, I probably want to have a title elimination bout or a title shot.”
Combat sports fan who loves a good body shot.