Makwan Amirkhani has captured the attention of many MMA fans thanks to two quick victories inside the octagon. ‘Mr. Finland' (12-2) hopes to go 3-0 in the UFC this Saturday when he takes on Mike Wilkinson (9-1) at UFC Fight Night 84 in London.
Amirkhani's UFC career has only included 109 seconds of cage time. In less than two minutes, the Finish fighter choked out Masio Fullen and TKO'd Andy Ogle. Amirkhani's next opponent, Mike Wilkinson, is no stranger to quick finishes himself. The Brit last fought at UFC Fight Night 53 in Sweden, where he knocked out hometown favourite Niklas Backstrom in under two minutes.
Many are expecting fireworks when these two featherweight prospects collide in London. The anticipation to the match-up has also been buoyed by the willingness of both men to share their not-so-flattering opinions of one another.
"I don't like him," Amirkhani told Bloody Elbow. "His face and everything, it's something I don't like."
Amirkhani revealed that his desires go beyond simply beating Wilkinson in the cage. "I just want to make this guy quit this sport," said Amirkhani. "I just want to give him a good lesson, right now I feel like a teacher and he is a student and I need to punish him for not being a good student."
Though Amirkhani has shown great enthusiasm in his war of words with Wilkinson, he admitted that it's not something he is used to. "I don't always talk s**t about my opponents," said Amirkhani. "That's not something I like to do."
"Mike is probably the only guy that I want to talk s**t about, but it's not actually s**t, it's true things that I'm saying, if I come and say I finish you in the first round, that's not a s**t talk, that's a real life thing, you will sleep in the first round, you just have to accept that."
Wilkinson served his fair share of verbal volleys at Amirkhani, but the Fin claimed he has little interest for what his opponent has had to say. "I haven't heard anything about Mike and I don't even give a f**k, because I do not want to listen to a dog who is afraid to bark."
"I know he's trying to make me get mad and lose my game plan, but I have my game plan ready for him, whatever he says, it doesn't affect me."
"He has [one week] left so he better enjoy it with his family, before I come to London and make everybody cry there."
Despite not being interested in Wilkinson's words, Amirkhani stated that he understands why the Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes alum has spoken about him in the media. "You have to say something," revealed Amirkhani. "To get followers, to get likes, and you know, some fans, probably not fans, but people like to follow this s**t, and I know that... it's not a lot of use, because I will make [him] quit."
Amirkhani continued, and addressed Wilkinson personally: "You better focus on your fight, you better focus on what you're going to do [on the] 27th of February, because none of that s**t you are saying now is gonna help you there."
Asked about the match-up itself, Amirkhani was supremely confident. "Everything that I have is much better than what Mike Wilkinson has."
"My striking is better than Mike's, my wrestling - he can't even talk about it, my grappling... just name the submission you want and I will do it."
Asked if he had done much scouting of Wilkinson, Amirkhani scoffed. "I don't need to study, he is just a brawler, a guy with no brain, just wants to - you know - come forward, come forward. Same thing that happened to Jose Aldo is same thing that happens to Mike if he wants to play that game."
Amirkhani, who once trained out of Stockholm's Allstars camp, spent time with SBG Ireland recently. Amirkhani revealed he worked under John Kavanagh for twenty days. The stint in Dublin was a trial run for both parties to see if they were a good fit together.
Amirkhani enjoyed his time at SBG immensely and hopes to make a permanent switch there. Amirkhani cited the polite and supportive atmosphere as one of many reasons why he wished to return.
Amirkhani also praised SBG for the humility its fighters showed once they crossed the gym's threshold.
"When you go into SBG Ireland, where you leave your shoes there is a sign where they say, ‘Beyond this point, no shoes, no egos", something like that, so that says something about that team."
Amirkhani, who claimed his time in Dublin improved "everything" in his game, also revealed how beneficial he found working with John Kavanagh in particular.
"When a coach like John [Kavanagh] tells you, ‘I'm pretty sure you'll finish your fight in the first round and you'll take the bonus', then you know you are kinda at a good level and the kinda shape you should be."
At SBG Amirkhani was also able to train with featherweight kingpin Conor McGregor. The experience was an eye-opening one. "I thought, ‘he's a striker'", recalled Amirkhani. "But he's a wrestler also."
"I need to be honest; you don't know somebody's skill until you feel them by yourself, but when I felt that with Conor, I thought, ‘Oh s**t.'"
The time spent with McGregor also fostered in Amirkhani a belief that McGregor was much more than a special mixed-martial-artist.
"It doesn't matter what sport Conor would start in, if he would start any other sport in a young age, he would be, if he wanted, world champion, he would [win] Olympic gold, because, you see, that the mental game that he has, it's just... unbelievable."
Like McGregor, Amirkhani hopes to share his success in the UFC with the people that matter most to him - his compatriots. Integral to this ambition is bringing the UFC to a new corner of Scandinavia.
"I want to fight in Finland," declared Amirkhani. " I think my people deserve that, they've been waiting so long, been asking so many times, ‘When the UFC comes to Finland?', I've been fighting all my life in other people's backyards, so I want to bring [my opponents] in my backyard. They will s**t on themselves."
For evidence of Amirkhani's celebrity in Finland, one need not look further than the fighter's meeting with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto in October, 2015. However, when discussing his popularity in his adopted homeland, Amirkhani's real pride comes from his connection to the ‘man on the street'.
"I was walking on the mall and a security guard ran after me, then he touched my shoulder, and I was like, ‘S**t, I didn't steal anything', and he was like, ‘You remember when I wrote on a picture on your fan page, I will hug you when I see you, with this 120 kilos of body? So... can I have my hug?', and I said laughs ‘Hey, of course you can have your hug.' Then I post that on my fan page. How nice the life is when you walk on the street and people want to hug you."