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Interview: Gokhan Saki on Khalil Rountree - ‘There is no seat for him at this table‘

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The kickboxing sensation sets the record straight on his delay, and promises he will show off his improvements this weekend at UFC 226

MMA: UFC Fight Night-Saki vs da Silva Susumu Nagao-USA TODAY Sports

After his surprise signing with the UFC, a lot of questions were raised about Gokhan Saki’s return to MMA. Coming in with an 0-1 record and having only one MMA fight back in 2004, a lot of doubts surrounded the kickboxing star with concerns regarding his preparation.

But by the time UFC Fight Night 117 rolled around, a lot of those concerns evaporated. He smoked his opponent near the end of the first round, bouncing Luis Henrique da Silva out of the UFC. But still, many fans saw holes in his performance. Saki took note, and got back to work as soon as he could.

Originally scheduled to fight Khalil Rountree in late December, Saki was sidelined with a knee injury that led to his withdrawal. Now he’s ready to continue what he hopes to be a violent path to the top of the light heavyweight division, and he’s still got that patented confidence and focus.

Victor Rodriguez: Have you seen you opponent fight before, and if so, what do you think of his style and the way he fights?

Gokhan Saki: Everybody says he’s a standup fighter, and for me, I think he’s trying to stand up. People don’t understand standup fighting, so they’re really excited about the way he’s fighting. But I think everything is OK, you know? I think when they see my standup compared with his, then they’re gonna see what’s real standup fighting. So for me, maybe he don’t wanna stand up with me, he’s gonna try to wrestle with me or he’s gonna try to do Jiu-Jitsu with me. Well, I don’t think he has the quality for that, you know? In a short time, to learn this all, to bring this all together.

VR: You spent some time training in Sweden over at Allstars, what was that experience like for you, setting up camp there?

GS: See, I trained for ten years in Golden Glory in Holland and there was a big team. And every week people were coming over from different countries. Last year I was in Sweden and I saw the same picture going, you know? So that’s why I went to Sweden. The training is good - heavy guys, light guys. It’s complete. It’s complete, you know? They understand, they know what they’re doing. I mean, they have (Alexander) Gustafsson, they have Ilir Latifi, they have Jimi Manuwa training there, and these guys are in the top five of the light heavyweight division. So I think that says enough about the Allstars gym, you know?

VR: Last time we spoke, you had talked about how you got some work in with the Turkish wrestling team, you were also looking to improve your cardio. How do you feel that the adjustment has been, given that you’ve spent most of your career doing kickboxing? As far as cardio goes, does that differ from kickboxing at all, and if so, how?

GS: You see how my last match went, and... how can I say this? I didn’t fight for two and a half years. And everybody was saying, like “He doesn’t have conditioning, his wrestling was not good at all“ and blah, blah, blah. But in that fight I had two knockdowns and a knockout. Like I said, people forget. I didn’t fight for two and a half years, and with the preparation of a few months - two months... two and a half months - I was there in the cage. People around me were saying “You’re fucking crazy, what are you doing?“ I’m a fighter. I’m a born fighter and a fight is a fight for me. It’s the timing, you know? I got injured after my fight with (Luis Henrique da) Silva, I continued training because I want to get better with my conditioning. I want to prove it. I want to get better but then I got injured. And then I have to work on (recovering from) my injury. I was working more on my recovery than only training. So after my injury (recovery) was finished, I was training but at the same time I was doing a lot of recovery. I watched a lot of videos of (footballer Cristiano) Ronaldo and the way he was doing his recovery. I used a lot of things from (watching) him and it helps a lot. I continued training until now, for five, six months. It feels good. My conditioning is very good, you know? What can I say? It depends on the fight, it depends on the day, how you feel, everything together. We’re gonna see, you know?

VR: You’ve claimed you want this to be more of a standup battle, you want to show off your skills. Any prediction as to how this fight ends?

GS: Lights out, game over, bro. Gonna knock him out, 100%

VR: You calling a round on that?

GS: Let’s hope first round. You never know.

VR: Not to get too ahead of ourselves, obviously you remain focused on your current opponent. But where do you think a win puts you, or what do you think you would want next after a win over Rountree this weekend?

GS: I think it’s better to talk about this after the fight. I have some plans, you know? But let’s focus first on this fight.

VR: Fair enough, that’s a sensible approach. You stated before that you wanted to be fighting for a title very soon. Any idea how close you think you may be at this point?

GS: See, I’m open for everything. If my fans want it, and the UFC and my management support it, I’m ready to knock giants out. But I think this division needs some excitement, so here I am, you know? Like I said, let’s wait for Saturday and after the fight we’ll see what will happen. I just want to give people what they want to see. I always fight big guys. I would love to fight big guys. I need challenges, you know?

VR: With a victory this Saturday, how do we plan on celebrating? Any good Turkish food in Vegas?

GS: Well, (laughs) I have a lot of people coming over from all around the world. Family from Holland, Europe, etc. From Dubai, I think 150, 200 people are coming. From L.A., a lot of Turks coming, so it’s gonna be a big party man. That’s for sure.

VR: Any last words or anything to say to your opponent?

GS: What does Khalil bring to the table? Nothing. There is no seat for him at this table. He has too much weakness. I know what those weaknesses are. For him to work on that? It’s too late. I’m already here.

Gokhan Saki looks to make good on his words this Saturday at UFC 226: Miocic vs Cormier, exclusively on Pay Per View.