The truth is that Misha Cirkunov didn’t want to wait a year and a half to fight after his win over Jimmy Crute. The 34-year-old light heavyweight saw the victory as the perfect way to get back on a winning streak and back into contention for the UFC light heavyweight title.
But that’s not how things went.
Instead, Cirkunov was sidelined by a mixture of injuries and training restrictions that came along with the COVID-19 pandemic. It was frustrating, but it also was a blessing for Cirkuov, who utilized the time away from the Octagon to find a better version of himself.
“For the past year plus I’ve been healing up; I’ve had some injuries, but I’ve been training and working on my skills, trying to become a better fighter, and now I’m here,” Cirkunov told UFC.com. “What I’ve missed the most about fighting is being able to do my job, being able to train properly and mainly do what I love.”
That changes for Cirkunov this weekend, as he will finally make the walk to the Octagon when he faces Ryan Spann in the co-main event of UFC Fight Night: Edwards Vs Muhammad.
Cirkunov is very familiar with Spann. In fact, Cirkunov was one of Johnny Walker’s cornermen for his bout with Spann last year. That allowed the Canadian light heavyweight a front row seat and some insight into what Spann is capable of.
And he expects that intel will pay off in the UFC APEX on Saturday.
“I was actually in Johnny Walker’s corner when he fought Ryan Spann and I saw the whole entire fight. They are both very athletic, very strong guys and Ryan Spann is a great athlete. I just have to fight smart. I cannot rely on my reflexes and go on whatever happens. I have to have a game plan and I have to follow it. I believe that will be the kryptonite for Ryan,” Cirkunov said. “It’s always nicer to watch somebody fight live because you feel their energy, you feel their power more and you see their facial expressions better. You see where they are kind of cracking and where they are shining. Watching a fight live is, of course, better than watching the footage, but having said that, watching footage is very beneficial.”
Walker was able to survive an early onslaught from Texas’ Spann, connecting with some elbows in the clinch that helped him earn a TKO finish at the end of a wild first round. Cirkunov doesn’t expect his fight with Spann to go like it did for Walker; he believes the bout will be more calculated and more technical.
This matchup comes at an important point for Cirkunov and Spann, as both are looking to work their way into the light heavyweight top ten. That’s why he believes while it may be a little less mayhem than the Walker fight, it will still bring plenty of entertainment for fight fans.
“A lot of action,” Cirkunov said when giving UFC.com his thoughts on the fight. “[We are] two athletic strong guys going at each other and trying to secure a win that will propel them to a higher stage and higher in the rankings. It’s a really big fight for me and for Ryan Spann.
“The biggest thing that excites me about him is that the caliber of Ryan Spann and my caliber puts us into a co-main event and that’s great. It’s another step closer to being a main event and I’m excited about that. I’m co-main event now and I’m looking forward to being a main event in the future.”
Putting together a run in the light heavyweight division is undoubtedly a tough thing to do, but with how many pieces have shifted since Jon Jones’ departure, it’s possible that Cirkunov could be one of the contenders that can separate himself from the pack.
Cirkunov’s push begins at UFC Fight Night: Edwards Vs Muhammad.
“I believe this year, if I want to win the title shot, I have to fight ideally three times and get three wins,” Cirkunov said of his goals for 2021. “That will definitely put an eye on me and that will definitely open up a lot of great opportunities and it’s starting with Ryan.”