If you’ve watched enough European MMA, you’re likely to have seen Martin Zawada at 28-15-1 as a professional, he’s been around. Now 16 years into his MMA career, he’s made his bones in his native Germany, Poland, Russia and the Netherlands. Often against unheralded opposition or fighters just about to hit it big, Zawada has been in some arduous battles.
After a previous stint with KSW in the mid-to-late aughts, he went off to ply his trade in other parts of Europe, but has now returned to his old stomping grounds and will be facing feared striker and UFC veteran Thiago Silva this Saturday.
Zawada spoke to BloodyElbow to discuss his training, the changes in the MMA scene and how that has improved his team, as well as how he plans on approaching this upcoming challenge.
Victor Rodriguez: So how has your training been for this particular camp knowing you’ll be taking on another strong fighter known for his striking?
Martin Zawada: I’ve been training hard with my team at UFD Dusseldorf. We’ve been working on a lot of things, but especially for a lot of striking. Danyo Ilunga has been there, my team is also strong, we have Abus (Abusupiyan) Magomedov, he fought last year in the finals for PFL, he trains a lot with me. Also Hatef Moeil, who is fighting James McSweeney, he’s another good guy. Also, Dion Staring came to sparring from Holland. I’m well-prepared for this fight, and I think all the guys on my team have helped prepare me to be strong for this fight.
VR: Have there been any major changes in this camp, or has this been more like previous training camps that you’ve had?
MZ: No, this time, after the (Michal) Materla fight I’ve been training more with weights, weightlifting, you know?
MZ: Yes, to become stronger. And a lot of grappling and when I was preparing this year, I was prepared to become stronger but when I got the call to fight Thiago Silva, I focused on a lot of technical games and sparring with heavy guys.
VR: Well, your nickname is King Kong. If you’re getting stronger now... that’s pretty scary, man.
MZ: (Laughs) We will see on Saturday! I know what’s coming, I know Thiago is a big fighter, big legend, strong fighter. He came also to Germany to train with our guys. I didn’t train with him, but I was holding pads for him. He’s a nice guy and I’m looking forward to a great match with him.
VR: What have you noted most from the way he fights that you believe works well for the way you fight?
MZ: I think he will move directly forward and try to punch with me, brawl with me. But I’m looking at having a gameplan for this and I’m ready for a brawl with him in the standup and also on the ground. I’m prepared with my conditioning, I’m in good shape. It will be a hard fight, because two world-class strikers will meet each other and we will see who is better prepared with better conditioning. Whoever wants it more will win this fight.
VR: What do you think comes next after this fight? Because this is going to be your third fight for KSW (in this current run) and things should look very good for you with a win this weekend. What do you think would be next for you?
MZ: First, I concentrate 100% on Saturday, because this is my last fight on my KSW contract. When I win, maybe it opens new doors. When I lose, you know. We will see, we will struggle it out, the fight game is different. People look up to you when you win, especially if you win in a way that is wonderful. But I’m focused now on Saturday, after that I’ll take a holiday. Right now I’m 35. After the fight we will see how my future will look.
VR: You mentioned your gym, UFD in Dusseldorf. We’ve seen as you mentioned your training partners Abus and other fighters having a degree of success as of late. What would you attribute that to?
MZ: I think it’s hard work. In the past I was the Luta Livre coach, you know. I’m a Luta Livre black belt and have a long Luta Livre background. The guys go up (succeed). My brother (UFC welterweight David Zawada) is in the UFC, (KSW welterweight champion) Roberto Soldic is a champion, Abus Magomedov is in a final, but it’s hard work. We have good coaches, and I think hard training, discipline and also good coaching make us bigger, bigger and better. And also, Hector Lombard visited our gym, Thiago (Silva) was coming, a lot of guys, (former UFC and Bellator fighter) Jay Silva, etc. All those guys come because they see our success and train with us. And this builds us better and better, from this we learn much and I think it’s a top, top gym in Europe and we have a big future. Our guys are young, hungry, and we have a lot of talent.
VR: One last thing, and I hate having to ask, but what’s the food your missing the most during your last few days before the weigh-in?
MZ: For me? I’m on weight now. I’m not a full-time pro, I work. I go systemically down, so now I’m on weight, no problem. But I hear last time there was a problem with Thiago’s weight. We will meet in a catchweight fight at 95kg, I agreed to that. I want to fight and I want Thiago Silva as my opponent. I’m on weight, I’m hungry, you know? I won’t lose any more kilos and I’m ready for the battle.
KSW 49 takes place this Saturday, starting at 2:00pm EST. This event will be available for purchase via KSW’s site at KSW , and also for sale at FITE.tv. You can also watch the event over at DAZN with a membership.