Tickets for UFC Stockholm on October 4 are on sale now to UFC Fight Club members and UFC newsletter subscribers. Tickets go on sale to the general public on Friday, August 22...
Swedish featherweight Niklas Backstrom doesn’t dismiss the reality of the first-time UFC jitters that plague so many Octagon debutants; he just doesn’t believe they applied to him.
“It’s not (a myth) because obviously people keep bringing them up, but to me, it doesn’t exist,” he said while in Stockholm this week to promote his October 4 bout with Mike Wilkinson. “Everybody’s different. Some people get nervous, but I don’t.”
That could be called bravado if not for the fact that he entered the Octagon for the first time in May against Tom Niinimaki and fought like an old pro before submitting the veteran at 4:15 of the first round. It was the eighth win without a loss for the Ornaset native, who turns 25 on Friday, right on time for the general public to pick up tickets for the next biggest fight of his career, at home in Stockholm’s Ericsson Globe Arena.
“It’s really cool,” Backstrom said. “I was kind of hoping for it. I got the Berlin fight, and I felt like I should get a fight in UFC Sweden. It’s been a dream of mine for a long time fighting in the UFC. I’ve watched it for so long and to now be on the main card in my home city and home country, it’s too cool.”
The UFC is excited to be back in town as well.
“We are thrilled to be bringing this event back to Sweden for the third consecutive year,” Garry Cook, the UFC’s Chief Global Officer, said. “And why are we returning here? Sweden is an anchor of our European business and a hotbed of MMA talent.”
That level of talent has been rising steadily in Sweden, Backstrom being the latest example of the fighters being produced at the country’s leading gym, the Allstars Training Center. Just a few years ago, if you mentioned MMA in Sweden, the response would be Alexander Gustafsson and nothing else. Today, Backstrom, Ilir Latifi, Nico Musoke, Andreas Stahl, Tor Troeng, Akira Corassani, and Magnus Cedenblad are among the Swedish standouts making a name for themselves in the UFC, and this is only the beginning.
“It’s no joke around here,” Backstrom said. “I think our team is by far the best team in Europe because in every weight class we have someone who is at least top three in Europe. Our team is packed with good fighters. We are no joke when it comes to sports.”
And Backstrom is no joke when it comes to fighting, but it may be his mental game that is his greatest weapon.
“I used to get nervous competing, but I’m pretty philosophical when it comes to fighting these days,” he said. “I ask myself why I’m not nervous and what the purpose of it is. It (being nervous) doesn’t help me at all. I know how good I am and I know what level I hold, so why waste energy on being nervous? It’s something that’s unnecessary, and comparatively I’m born with a skill that has changed the way I feel about stuff and changed my perspective.”
Watch out, because his peers may try to track him down to learn that skill so they can perform with a clear mind and focus on fight night.
“I think you’re born with it,” Backstrom counters, with a laugh. “It doesn’t come from Disneyland. I know what level I hold, I’ve trained with top-level guys, so why be nervous? I know I’m gonna win.”
He’s had no reason to feel otherwise thus far, and he expects England’s Wilkinson to be the next to fall.
“From the beginning of my career I haven’t really looked up the guys that I fight,” he said. “I don’t worry too much about my opponents; I feel that they should worry about me.”
On Friday, August 22, tickets go on sale to the general public - click here