And just like that, The Rebel is back. After almost two years away from competitive fighting, the UFC has announced that Dutch-Turkish kickboxing superstar Gokhan Saki will be joining their ranks with a return to MMA competition in the world’s premier MMA organization.
Saki announced his surprise signing to the UFC in a post to his Twitter account on May 25th:
Even without much in the way of MMA credentials, Saki represents the biggest name signed by the UFC in quite some time. He’s has faced and beaten some of the best of the best in kickboxing, including men like Daniel Ghita, Rico Verhoeven, Peter Aerts, Alistair Overeem, Ray Sefo, Tyrone Spong, Remy Bonjasky, Tyrone Spong, and Semmy Schilt - including two fights against the infamous Badr Hari.
Kickboxing aside, this will not be his first foray into the MMA world. He holds a 0-1 record after a TKO loss in 2004 against London Shootfighters product James Zikic. That fight took place at the inaugural Cage Fighting Championships event in Liverpool on a card that also featured former heavyweight fighter Valentijn Overeem.
Still, it’s a massive coup for the UFC. They’ve had a rough year so far with events that seem to be under-performing in terms of ratings and buy-rates. Having another high-caliber combat sports athlete make his way in is a fantastic shot in the arm for the heavyweight or light heavyweight divisions, especially if he’s set to compete on the upcoming Rotterdam card on September 2nd.
Saki has been fighting at a high level for a solid decade now, placing 3rd in K-1 World Grand Prix events in 2008 and 2010, as well as their heavyweight tournaments. He won the K-1 Grand Prix in Hawaii in 2008, and went on to become the inaugural Glory light heavyweight champion at Glory 15 in Istanbul. After winning the title, he took one more kickboxing fight in Dubai, a win against Sebastian Ciobanu under the Global Fighting Championship at GFC Fight Series 3. Eventually he stripped of the Glory belt after not defending the title for over a year.
UFC Rotterdam takes place September 2nd at the Ahoy Rotterdam arena in the Netherlands. No news yet as to who Saki might face at the event.