Serhiy Sidey’s first successful defense of his BFL bantamweight title came in December 2021 against Ali Wasuk, with the champion from Burlington, Ontario felling the local challenger with a series of punches along the fence a little over a minute into the fourth round.
Now, 18 months later, the 26-year-old titleholder returns to Vancouver to face Wasuk for a second time, hopeful that another victory and a third successful defense of his title will be enough to punch his ticket to the biggest stage in the sport.
“To be honest, the reason we’re taking this fight again and the reason we’re doing this again is for the opportunity of having that fight the day before UFC Vancouver,” explained Sidey, who garnered a first-round stoppage win over UFC veteran Walel Watson to claim the BTC bantamweight title in his most recent appearance earlier this year. “The fact that he won those fights, I knew there was a potential chance because he’s on his winning ways, he’s got that two-fight winning streak.
“He’s a top-ranked guy and he’s done a good job in the last year-and-a-half since we fought to build up his record,” he added regarding Wasuk, who collected a second-round submission win earlier this year to move to 6-2 overall. “This is the fight that made the most sense.”
Heading into that initial meeting with Wasuk at the close of 2021, Sidey had a blueprint for how he’d like to see the next 12-18 months of his professional career play out, telling me at the time that he wanted to successfully defend his title once more before either getting called up to the UFC outright or earning his way there through a victory on Dana White’s Contender Series.
He did successfully defend his title once more, collecting a unanimous decision victory over Austin Russell when he ventured west last spring, but that next piece of the puzzle didn’t fall into place. Despite his ambitions, Sidey remains unbothered, displaying a mindset and approach beyond his years, which only serves to make him an even more intriguing prospect as he readies to return to action on Friday night in Vancouver.
“It’s a patience game,” he said when asked about the timeline being elongated. “I know as long as I’m putting in that consistent work and I’m putting in those reps, getting one percent better every single day, it’s just a matter of time. I’m just enjoying the journey, enjoying getting better, and making sure that when I do get there — when I get to the UFC, which I know I will — I’m going be even more ready because I’m just getting better and better.
“I would say reading lots of mindset books, listening to podcasts with high-level athletes — learning how their minds work and trying to relate it to my mindset, adding in things like gratitude and enjoying the journey, enjoying the process,” said Sidey when asked how he cultivated his mature, focused approach. “I find it makes my day-to-day life so much better, so much more positive — I’m so much more grateful for every single day, every day of training, every opportunity.
“When you look at the top guys, that’s how they operate,” he added. “I’m trying to follow along with the best in the world because that’s where I want to get to.”
While a second meeting with Wasuk wasn’t necessarily at the top of his list of priorities, Sidey sees this Friday’s sequel as a chance to improve on his efforts from their first meeting.
“I wasn’t happy with how my last fight with Ali went,” offered the Burlington-based prospect of Ukrainian heritage, who walks to the cage with the country’s flag draped over his shoulders. “Even though I won, I sat down with my coaches, and we were not happy with the performance, so this time through, I want to make a real performance, finish him much more spectacular than the last time.
“I can’t say I coasted through the fight, but there were a lot of opportunities to finish that fight, especially against the fence when I was pinning him up,” Sidey answered when pressed about what he didn’t like about his first meeting the Wasuk. "There were a lot of moments where I could have broken up the cage exchange and landed my big shots.
“I kind of took the path of least resistance in that fight, which, if I’m winning, I’m going to keep my ways — it’s the other person’s responsibility to win that fight and get their momentum going — but there were a lot of things I didn’t get to show off, and I feel like this time around it’s going to be much different.”
It also feels like even though things didn’t progress the way he’d hoped after their first meeting, they’ve come together perfectly this time around.
“I live for these moments, man,” said Sidey, the excitement and anticipation evident in his voice. “These are the most exciting moments, these big opportunities, and I feel like all the stars aligned perfectly for this moment — the fact that I’m the BFL champion, the fact that the card is one day before UFC Vancouver; all the stars are lining up and it’s my opportunity.”
With members of the UFC staff scheduled to be in attendance, the talented prospect is counting down the days until he returns to the west coast, returns to the Battlefield Fight League cage, and gets his hand raised in victory once again.
But even in all that anticipation, Sidey’s maturity and the iron-clad mindset that makes him so formidable shines through.
“I’m never chasing anything, I’m never forcing anything, but I’m looking for that finish; I’m looking for something spectacular, some kind of highlight,” he said, offering his forecast on how the fight plays out. “There are so many weapons, there are so many ways I’m visualizing finishing this fight — I’m just gonna flow, be myself, have fun, operate with a heart of gratitude, and enjoy the moment.
“But it’s not me versus my opponent,” he added. “It’s me versus me — me trying to be better every single time, for myself.
“I love martial arts, I love trying to become a better martial artist, and I love to perform. This is a big stage and I feel like the bigger the spotlight, the more I shine, so this is the moment for me.”