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Oezdemir discusses UFC's light heavyweight landscape


Volkan Oezdemir is currently teaching a master class in how to make things happen for yourself in the UFC.

Prior to his showdown with Jimi Manuwa at UFC 214, the 27-year-old title contender revealed he’d been given a new nickname, “No Time,” saying the new handle not only applied to how he preferred to handle his work in the Octagon quickly, but also his rapid climb up the divisional rankings.

He then promptly walked into the cage and made good on his pre-fight proclamation to become the first man to stop Manuwa in the opening round, rocking the knockout artist from London with a series of short hooks and uppercuts in the clinch before felling him for good with a charging left hook. The fight lasted 42 seconds. No time at all.

“Everything was part of the plan,” Oezdemir said of his stellar performance last month in Anaheim. “I was visualizing a few movements and a few strong points that I have and the uppercuts, I had that in mind, but it wasn’t from the clinch. It was all part of the plan and I was happy it happened that way.”

It has been a year of things happening the right way for the surging Swiss contender, who topped Thomas Gerbasi’s list of top newcomers in the UFC on the strength of three straight victories over Top 10 fighters, including consecutive first-round stoppage wins in a combined 70 seconds.

But what has separated him from the pack and highlighted how much Oezdemir truly understands the fight game is how proactive he has been when it comes to plotting the next step forward in his career.
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Rather than taking the “Whomever the UFC gives me” approach employed by so many these days, the Combat Club representative lobbied to fight Manuwa in the moments after he defeated Misha Cirkunov in May and had verbally agreed to the contest before he reached the post-fight press conference.

Following his win at UFC 214, Oezdemir told Joe Rogan he wanted the winner of the evening’s light heavyweight championship fight between Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier, but he also came prepared with a back-up plan. Just a few days after the event, he respectfully suggested a showdown with Alexander Gustaffson on social media, suggesting he and the two-time title challenger throw down.

“I have to respect my nickname,” he laughed when asked about his penchant for always having his next fight in mind. “If I have ‘No Time,’ I need to keep fighting.

“I’m trying to be proactive and since Jones talked about (Brock) Lesnar, I was like, ‘Okay, maybe Jones isn’t going to be okay with a fight with me because my name is not out there yet for a Pay-Per-View main event.’ So I think we can increase the value of the title shot by fighting, Alexander and me.

“That would be great to determine who will be next fighting for the belt.”
Volkan Oezdemir punches Jimi Manuwa during their light heavyweight bout at UFC 214
It’s also the only real matchup that makes sense for the newly minted contender outside of fighting for the title.

Having climbed to No. 3 in the rankings by taking out a triumvirate of Top 10 talents in his first six months on the roster, the list of names stationed ahead of Oezdemir in the rankings has been reduced to three – Jones, Cormier and Gustafsson. Depending on what comes next for Jones, the ambitious Swiss contender who has made a rapid ascent from obscurity to “in the mix” might have to pick between spending time on the sidelines waiting for a specific opponent or rolling the dice in a high risk, low reward matchup that allows him to stay active.

“I think the division is a little bit stuck right now because No. 4, which is Glover, is fighting Misha (Cirkunov),” said Oezdemir, assessing the landscape at light heavyweight. “Six and seven (Shogun Rua and Ovince Saint Preux) are fighting together in September, so I guess it’s a little stuck right now, but we’ll see what happens.

“It’s a decision I have to make right now,” he added in regards to his own situation. “I want to be fighting once more before the end of the year and whoever it is, it’s not a problem, but it also has to make sense.

“I always try to go forward all the time – to be proactive – so I’m happy and I’m also really humbled and blessed that I’m already in the talk for the title. Hopefully it’s going to happen in one or two fights. I can’t wait for the future to happen.”