Even though he made his MMA debut in 2004, it took 14 years for international kickboxing superstar Gokhan Saki to return to the sport. When his signing to the UFC was announced, many questions were asked as to whether or not he was ready to make the leap after all this time, or what his performance would look like.
This past September, we saw some of what Saki was ready to bring. Yet with his finish of Luis Henrique da Silva late in the first round of his first UFC bout, some questions still remain.
Luckily for us, Saki agreed to talk to Bloody Elbow to address his performance, his time off, and his hopes while he prepares to schedule his next fight. He’s got more bold proclamations to make, and he’s not shy about his ambitions.
Victor Rodriguez: In preparation for your second UFC fight, what has been your biggest focus in training?
Gokhan Saki: Well I had my first fight in the UFC after a two-and-a-half year break. I didn’t fight for two and a half years and I had to transcend to MMA conditioning and five-minute rounds. So after my first fight it was obvious that I still have ring rust and have to get my cardio up. The day after my fight I started with that and posted some of that on my social media. Unfortunately, I had some knee problems and needed surgery, 12 stitches. So for months I had to recover and this has been my biggest focus for now. Recover and come back stronger. I made a promise to my fans and I intend to keep my promise.
VR: Who do you have as your coaches, and what do you find each brings to the table?
GK: Well I worked with a lot of guys. Now my coaches are Selman Berisha and Martijn de Jong. Each have their own experience and point of view and they work well together to bring the best out of me. In Turkey I work a lot with Ertan Balaban for jiu-jitsu.
VR: You’ve made the bold proclamation that you will rise through the light heavyweight ranks. How long do you think that would take, and what opponents do you think you should face to reach that objective?
GK: Its really simple: I’m a competitive athlete. I’m here to fight the best and prove that I’m the best because I beat the best. I cant settle for less than a number one position. Its not in my blood, I can’t finish second. Nobody remembers number two, I’m here to be remembered. The guy that came, saw, and conquered.
If there are no obstacles like what happened with my knee I will do this within a year from now. It’s just like i said - I don’t know how I’m going to win, I just know I’m not going to lose.
VR: You’re clearly an undisputed legend in kickboxing, are there any other kickboxers that you’d like to see try their hand at MMA?
GK: Thank you man, I like your introduction... haha! Not particularly, (although) for a while Tyrone Spong was heading towards that. It’s a shame I didn’t see that blowing up and see how he does for a long term.
VR: You were previously training/living in Dubai. Are you splitting your time between Dubai and Turkey, or is there a place you’re staying at and training full time? If so, what advantages does this provide for a fighter like you?
GK: Well I’m like Marco Polo man, discovering. I trained in Dubai, Sweden, Holland, Turkey, Miami, LA, and Las Vegas. I’m just trying places to see what works the best for me and where I feel like home. The places for me now are Istanbul, Turkey and Las Vegas/LA. Each place has its benefits and its disadvantages. For example, in Sweden I had good training partners like (Alexander) Gustafsson and (Ilir) Latifi. But in Istanbul I have a lot of Turkish Olympic wrestlers, family, friends, and the biggest reason of all - Turkey is in my heart.
VR: Would you consider a major MMA camp like Jackson-Wink or American Top Team for your training at any point?
GK: I’m open to everything man.
VR: Finally - and I know this one hurts to think about - what foods do you miss the most during your weight cut, and why?
GK: Energy drinks, chocolate, Turkish food, and junk food. Now (that) I’m summing this up, I’m feeling depressed man, don’t ask me these questions! Haha!