"I can't lose against Soszynski and I need to give my best. That's what
I'm going to do. I have no mental issues going to this fight, I learned a
lot from the defeats and I became a better fighter."
Throughout life, you have to deal with the consequences of your decisions and how they will affect your life. Of course when everything runs fine, smiles and kudos for a job well done may follow, but it’s not always like this, and eventually, regrets may creep in.
And that’s the way things looked for Croatia’s Goran Reljic. A talented and unbeaten prospect who dispatched veteran Wilson Gouveia at light heavyweight in 2008, Reljic then got sidelined for nearly two years due to a terrible back injury that required surgery.
When he returned in 2010, he did so as a middleweight, surprising many, because while plans like that are understandable when you suffer a defeat and look for new possibilities to shine in a different weight class, or when you are a veteran without huge aspirations and weight classes don't matter, for the still developing prospect to drop 20 pounds after a spectacular debut win was an odd choice.
Then came back to back losses to CB Dollaway and Kendall Grove, and as he returns to 205 pounds to face Krzysztof Soszynski this Saturday at UFC 122, it appeared that he made the wrong decision to test the middleweight waters. He doesn’t agree.
"I wouldn't call it a wrong decision," said Reljic. "But (returning to 205) I think that this fits my body a little more."
Reljic understands that MMA isn't a fitness competition, and more weight for him means more strength, and with the ability and speed that we watched in his first fight, it’s a combination that’s dangerous for any opponent. However, in his middleweight contests, such virtues weren't shown and even though he lost tough decisions, he didn’t look to be the same as the light heavyweight Goran.
"Diet was never an issue," he says when asked if he didn’t cut weight properly. "I had personal problems in my life and with my health, but I don't want to create an excuse, that's part of the past. Now I'm focused on what's ahead of me."
Part of the past or not, people want to hear how Reljic analyzes both of his bouts inside the Octagon as a 185 pounder because how he saw the past is a blueprint for what not to do in the future.
"Listen, it's a fact, CB was better (at UFC 110) because of the takedowns and he scored points," said Reljic, conceding the unanimous decision loss. But when it comes to his tough-to-score-match against TUF 3 winner Kendall Grove in UFC 113 last July, it’s clear that he disagrees with the final scorecards.
"That's my opinion, there is no way I lost that fight to Kendall," he says emphatically. "He got taken down every round and with the exception of the upkick, he didn't do any damage to me. So I don't think it was a fair call; the only time he took me down was when I caught him with a hook and tried to kick him. However, I swept him with an omoplata right away."
The upkick that Reljic mentions happened at 1:25 of the first round and it rocked the Croatian briefly. That was only one of the moments where the 'Baby Cro Cop', as Kendall referred to him before the fight, had to deal with the long arms and legs of the 6'6" Hawaiian. And as far as Reljic is concerned, the upkick impressed the judges more than it should have, being critical toward costing him a positive result after 15 minutes of battle.
"I think so," agrees Reljic. "But like I said, other than that, he didn't do much and I was expecting more from him."
For his next fight in the UFC, his first inside the Octagon in Europe, Reljic will likely have the crowd chanting his name, since the Croatia-born citizen once lived in Germany and also due to the proximity of both countries. But at the same time, his foe, Poland native Krzysztof Soszynski, can have the same support for the same reason. Is that added pressure for either fighter?
"No pressure there," Goran says. "I think in this scenario things are going to be very equal for us."
And the similarities don't stop there, as they are both coming into this fight with defeats in their previous appearances. Reljic has the mindset of being in a do or die situation as he has previously stated that another defeat may be the end of the line for him under the UFC banner.
"I went back to the gym (after the last fight), I was angry and I felt like I won that fight. Also a lot of people think the same," said Reljic. "I can't lose against Soszynski and I need to give my best. That's what I'm going to do. I have no mental issues going to this fight, I learned a lot from the defeats and I became a better fighter.
"Soszynski is a very good striker, a good wrestler, and he’s trained with Team Quest - some of the best people in the business," he continues. "He trains real hard and he doesn't stop, so it has all the attributes to be a great fight."