Swiss Volkan Oezdemir says UFC light heavyweight champ Jon Jones, who recently referred to him as “that Russian guy,” is going to have to do his research if he wants to keep his top spot.
Volkan Oezdemir is living up to his nickname, “No Time,” in a big way.
Oezdemir wasted no time at UFC 214 this past weekend in his pivotal fight against top contender Jimi Manuwa. The reoccurring underdog picked up yet another victory in less than a minute, knocking the Brit out with short shots in the clinch followed up by a left hand.
Oezdemir isn’t surprised he finished “Poster Boy” in only 42 seconds, but he was thrown off guard when Manuwa clinched with him early — something Oezdemir thinks was a mistake.
“I don’t know what the game plan was there. I think you should always go with your strengths,” he said. “I was surprised, but it played out really good for me.”
Now 3-0 in the Octagon, Oezdemir, who debuted only in February as an unknown commodity, is no more than one win away from a title shot.
And that means UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, who recaptured the title in a rematch with Daniel Cormier in the UFC 214 main event, is going to have to do his research on Oezdemir.
During an interview scrum before UFC 214, which took place at Honda Center in Anaheim, California, on Saturday, Jones referred to Oezdemir, who is already targeting a fight with Jones, as “that Russian guy.” Oezdemir was, of course, born in Switzerland and partly comes from Turkish decent.
“He’s gonna have to know more about me, for sure,” Oezdemir told BloodyElbow.com’s The MMA Circus.
With the win over Manuwa, the only fighters above Oezdemir in the rankings are Jones, Cormier, who just lost the title, and Alexander Gustafsson. “The Mauler” seems to be the most likely candidate for the next 205-pound title shot, as he only marginally came up short against Jones in 2013’s “Fight of the Year,” and fans have wanted to see a rematch ever since then. But Oezdemir is new blood in the division, and he thinks that is why he deserves the next crack at the belt.
“I better be (next in line), because Gustafsson fought [Jones],” Oezdemir said. “I’m fresh, I’m here, I’m new. See what I just did. Right now, it’s all about momentum, so if [Jones] goes to heavyweight to fight Brock Lesnar, it’s killing the momentum, too. I think we need to build up the fight, and I think I’ll be a really, really good opponent for him.”
That said, Oezdemir will understand if Gustafsson is paired up with Jones and he has to fight once more before his dreams of fighting for the UFC championship become reality.
“Gustafsson was the No. 1 contender for a while. He has history with Jon Jones, and I think fans want to see the rematch. That’s four years ago. That’s a long time. Maybe it’s time for some new blood.”
Brock Lesnar was tossed around as a potential next opponent for Jones last week, and “Bones” even called the former UFC heavyweight champion out after his third-round TKO win over “DC.” But Lesnar failed a drug test last summer and has yet to complete his one-year suspension, since he exited the USADA testing pool upon retiring. All of that would have to be cleared up before Lesnar could even think about fighting again, so the Jones fight probably won’t happen in the foreseeable future.
Even if Jones does eventually meet Lesnar in the cage, and whether that comes before or after the Gustafsson rematch, Oezdemir isn’t worried about never having the chance to fight the greatest light heavyweight of all time.
Jones has long talked about a move to heavyweight (that said, he’s not too interested in fighting heavyweight champ Stipe Miocic), but Oezdemir doesn’t think any sort of jump in weight would be permanent.
“Jon Jones is 205. 205 is Jon Jones. You cannot put those two separately,” Oezdemir said. “Even if he is gonna fight heavyweight, he’s gonna come back to his weight class, because everybody knows his weight class is 205 — that’s where he belongs. I’m not worried about that. I know he’s gonna come back. Maybe he’ll do one or two money fights in heavyweight, but, of course, he’s gonna come back to defending the belt.”
Oezdemir has, in a way, turned into somewhat of an internet sensation over the past few months. Fans have been drawn to the surprise factor he brings to all his Octagon appearances. When he fought Ovince Saint Preux on short notice in his debut, he was rather unknown and most people picked Saint Preux, a former interim title challenger and betting favorite. He proved people wrong once again in May with a 28-second knockout over rising contender Misha Cirkunov. Oezdemir was the underdog for third straight time against Manuwa, and, well, we know how that played out.
Oezdemir believes the Manuwa win was a turning point in the sense that some people will start to realize he’s one of the best at 205 pounds and give him “credit” for his past performances. But he still expects a large majority of fight fans to continue underestimating him — and he’s fine with that.
“Nobody will still know who I am, because I keep finishing my fights in like one minute. So people will keep putting me in the underdog position,” Oezdemir said. “I’m just gonna bring in the element of surprise.”