It was a marriage made in marketing heaven, an opportunity for Lukasz Sajewski to take pictures with Chewbacca and be celebrated by Star Wars fans around the globe. But it’s not to be, as the Polish newcomer’s nickname, “Wookie,” has nothing to do with the beloved film franchise.
“It is a shortcut of my name written in English phonetic,” he explained. “There’s no specific meaning.”
Okay, that was a bit of a disappointment, but thankfully Sajewski makes up for it with a quick wit and a level of talent that has fight fans eagerly anticipating his UFC debut this Saturday against Nick Hein. Well, at least the fans outside of Berlin’s O2 World Arena, because the ones inside will likely be cheering for hometown hero Hein and booing Sajewski.
“I am in fact the bad guy so it is not bothering me,” he laughs. “Fighting on a rival's turf gives me extra motivation. I know I have to reach my very best. I feel that I have to attack and conquer. I am a born winner.”
No one has proven him wrong yet. Unbeaten in 13 pro fights, the 24-year-old has the confidence that comes with youth and success, and that has been there since he was a youngster studying martial arts.
“I liked martial arts since I was a kid,” Sajewski. “I never thought about whether it was a talent or just a need to compete with other kids, but I was always good at it. When I started MMA, I felt that's what I want to do in my life. Success is made through hard work and passion.”
His parents didn’t necessarily agree with his career choice. Thirteen fights and a UFC contract later, have they changed their opinion?
“We will see after my debut,” he laughs. “Of course, they changed their attitude when I was successful.”
A pro since 2008, Sajewski ran through the local scene like most hot prospects do, but perhaps lost in the sea of Ws was a 2010 victory over fellow Polish standout Marcin Held. Considering that Held has gone on to beat the likes of Phillipe Nover, Rich Clementi and Patricky Freire, the win was quite the important one when it comes to determining how good Sajewski can possibly be.
“It was a big step in my career,” he said. “At that time, Marcin was winning over good Polish fighters. After that fight I finally received some appreciation.”
Unfortunately, he couldn’t capitalize on that appreciation, as he sat idle for two years before returning in 2012.
“The problem was with my former coach and lack of proper management,” Sajewski said. “But I was training all the time and I learned a lot. That wasn't wasted time.”
And when he got back to active duty, he picked up where he left off, winning five straight before getting the call to the UFC as part of the wave of young Polish talent – led by UFC strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk – making their way to the big show.
“The Polish scene is developing rapidly,” Sajewski said. “We are the first generation of fighters without any specific base. That makes us more well-rounded, as we are working on all MMA aspects since the start. I am very happy to live in a time when MMA is reaching a top level.”
And while he didn’t get put on the Krakow card in April, he was there in person, getting a taste for what awaits him this Saturday.
“It was my first time at UFC event,” he said. “I felt that amazing atmosphere and I can't wait to be on a main stage in Berlin.”
He’s just days away, and when you hear his philosophy of fighting, it’s impossible not to get excited about what he can do.
“I am relentless, always going to do my job and force my style of fight,” he said. “It doesn't matter how my rival will fight, what’s more important is what I'm going to do with him. I am coming for a war and won't take captives.”