Teemu Packalen spoke to Bloody Elbow about his long rehab from surgery and his thoughts on UFC London opponent Marc Diakiese.
It’s been over a year since Teemu Packalen wowed MMA fans with the fourth quickest submission in UFC history. That win over Thibault Gouti (via rear-naked choke after just 24 seconds) came at UFC Fight Night: Bisping vs. Silva.
“It felt amazing, naturally,” said Packalen when asked by Bloody Elbow how it felt to get his first victory in the UFC. “I got my foot in the door of the UFC and it also shook the first loss off of my shoulders.” The lightweight said he was “extremely happy” with his sub-30-second performance over Gouti, but admitted, “there is still a lot to improve.”
Undefeated no more! @PackalenTeemu hands Gouti his first pro loss!! Two fights. Two finishes. Let’s go! #UFCLondon https://t.co/N06OILhpfF
— UFC (@ufc) February 27, 2016
Unfortunately for Packalen, he was robbed of time to improve his game due to a serious shoulder injury. He’s not sure exactly when the injury occurred. He said it may have been in the Gouti fight itself or just before. “You know how a fighter’s life is. There’s always some small injuries that you don’t care about at first, but sometimes they get bigger. And then they can get serious thanks to a fight or hard training.”
The shoulder injury required surgery and a long stretch of rehabilitation for Packalen. “At first the recovering was going really well,” remembered Packalen. “I felt like I’d be back in shape in record time. Then came the hardest part, when there was almost no improvement at all.”
When Packalen’s recovery plateaued he sought expert advice. Fortunately for him, he didn’t have to go far to find a world renowned physiotherapist. In his hometown (Turku, Finland) Packalen met up with Marko Yrjövuor, a former physical advisor for the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers. During his time with the Lakers, Yrjövuor was also the personal physical coach of NBA legend Kobe Bryant.
“With Marko’s help everything was easy and now the shoulder is in perfect shape,” said Packalen. “I started training gradually by doing things that felt good. Then I started sparring with smart training partners; that I could trust to not start throwing me around or getting all crazy when sparring.”
The healed Packalen heads to London this weekend to take on super-prospect Marc Diakiese at UFC Fight Night: Anderson vs. Manuwa. The 24-year-old Englishman has been hyped as a potential star in the 155lb division. Unperturbed Packalen thinks that Diakiese’s hype is well deserved. “He has two nice wins and he’s active with media.”
Packalen was also positive when discussing his opponent’s skills; stating that he, “doesn’t see any actual weaknesses” in Diakiese’s game. “He’s quite well rounded and known for his KO ability. He seems to have good conditioning, too.” Packalen, who is three inches taller than Diakiese, believes his size and strength advantage will help him derail the Diakiese hype-train. The Finnfighters Gym product also believes he is more technical than the Brit.
.@Marc_Diakiese makes history as the first ever @ufc star to pose for a gay mag. We’re glad he’s on our side… https://t.co/iixbhgDmU6 pic.twitter.com/pd4wcZnWYJ
— Gay Times Magazine (@GayTimesMag) February 17, 2017
Diakiese made headlines recently for something he did outside of the cage. In February the Doncaster-native appeared in a photo-shoot for Gay Times Magazine, making him the first UFC fighter to pose for an LGBTQ publication. “As people, we are all one,” said Diakiese in relation to his barrier-breaking appearance.
When asked his opinion on Diakiese’s decision to be featured in the magazine, Packalen expressed delight. “I think it was good for him and good for our sport too. After all, it’s 2017 now and everybody should have a right to be what they are. Maybe sometimes people should be more tolerant and care less about other peoples’ personal lives.”
Asked if he would do a similar photo-shoot Packalen responded, “why not?” However, he did say it all depended on the contents of the accompanying story and reputation of the outlet.
With high respect for Diakiese’s talents and social stances Packalen is looking forward to their showdown on Saturday night. And he thinks the fight will be must-see-TV. “It will be an entertaining, powerful, and technical fight,” said Packalen. “After this fight Marc’s fans will be my fans, also.”
You can watch Teemu Packalen take on Marc Diakiese this Saturday on the undercard of UFC Fight Night: Anderson vs. Manuwa, which airs exclusively on UFC Fight Pass.