Transitions between different types of combat sports aren’t the easiest things to make. Not only are different skills involved, but even seasoned athletes can find themselves suddenly at sea, as they lose the familiar bearings of their career success. Even within MMA, fighters have struggled with the transition from ring to cage and from 5-minute rounds to 10-minute rounds.
So, it’s no surprise that Gokhan Saki’s UFC debut would have its rough spots. The former world champion kickboxer returned to MMA for the first time in 13 years, taking on Henrique da Silva at UFC Fight Night: Saint Preux vs. Okami on September 23rd. ‘The Rebel’ – as he’s also known – scored a first-round KO over his Brazilian opponent, landing a trademark left hook to battle back from adversity.
Following the win, the ‘Turkish Tyson’ stopped by the MMA Hour to talk about his training in the lead up to the bout, and his expectations for the future (transcript via MMA Fighting).
“After my last fight – it was a kickboxing fight – I was always ready for three minutes. Now, it was five minutes. Like I said, I only started training this year in MMA conditioning and you cannot build it up in a couple of months.
“How I see the contest, for the first three minutes I was good, and then after three and four minutes I started to get a little bit tired but also the ring rust was coming,” he explained.
“The first time I hit him with a knockdown, he went down and when he stood up I only give power punches. Normally, in kickboxing when I was training all the time, I am thinking all the time in the fight, throwing combinations. This time I was only giving power shots.
“Now I’ve started training again already because this was my first time in an ultimate fight. It was only 50 percent. This is just the beginning. I’m really happy to be back on this big stage. I’m ready to show many, many more things.”
Saki has been one of the biggest name acquisitions for the UFC in 2017. And even at 33 (and only 1-1 in MMA) he’s already making promises to win a title belt by 2018. Apparently he’ll also be moving to the US to train for future fights, and hopes to fight once more before 2017 is out.
After Volkan Oezdemir’s recent light heavyweight run, who knows? Maybe fans will be looking at Saki as a title challenger come next year.