The last time Akira Corassani appeared in the Octagon was in November in Las Vegas, when he fought Maximo Blanco. It lasted only 25 seconds because Blanco smashed Corassani with an illegal knee that shattered his nose in six places, causing "my whole nose to collapse in my face." When the doctors checked on him to see if he could continue, he said thought he was back in his native Sweden.
Needless to say he was deemed unfit to continue.
Five months and reconstructive surgery later, Corassani -- who was given the win on a disqualification -- will step in there again against Dustin Poirier at The Ultimate Fighter Nations Finale on April 16 in Quebec City, Quebec. Even with the horrific nature of his last outing, in which his septum was snapped and his face was literally rearranged, the TUF 14 veteran says he doesn’t have any fear of getting socked in his nose again.
"I’ve had Edson Barboza kick me right on the nose, Marlon Moraes throwing punches in sparring, no problem," he told Ariel Helwani on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. "It’s fantastic. My sister’s are doctors. They gave me a lot of advice, how to treat it, and how to restrict on my diet and eat certain things and certain supplements and all that."
The 31-year old Corassani said that when he got back into training he was forced to wear protective gear -- "like a Samurai mask" -- as gradually began accepting punches to his face again in sparring. After a couple of months he said that now his nose is "perfect," and that he could take a "good, solid Brock Lesnar punch" to it and be fine.
Only, it won’t be Lesnar’s punches flying at him in Quebec, but Poirier’s, the budding 25-year old featherweight contender who is riding a two-fight win streak of his own. Poirier last appeared at UFC 168, when he settled a bad blood bout by dropping Diego Brandao, who showed up overweight.
Poirier is currently ranked No. 6 on the media-voted UFC rankings, which is a big step up in competition for the unranked Corassani. Asked if he was surprised when matchmaker Sean Shelby made that call to go after it with Poirier -- who many believed might be booked against a top-fiver next -- Corassani said yes, but that he jumped at the opportunity.
"We got three names, and I picked him myself," he said. "It’s like your friend calling you and saying, ‘we got this free cruise, let’s go’ -- it’s like a present. At first I didn’t believe it. This is a guy who’s top ten, obviously, and I get his name. I was like, really? Are you sure you read the names right? He’s like, 'yeah, Dustin Poirier' I said, ‘Dude, right away, that’s what I want.’ He said, 'are you sure?' And I said, ‘yeah, we’re going for this one.’"
When pressed as to why he was so eager to take a fight in which he would be the underdog, Corassani said it’s because he’s ready for the steep challenge.
"To be somebody you got to beat somebody, right?" he said. "And those other fights were kind of, just another fight. Every fight is a fight. All fights are important and career determining. But when there’s an element of danger, when there’s more at stake, I perform better. [That’s been] throughout my whole career."
Corassani and Poirier will kick off the main card on Fox Sports 1 on Wednesday, April 16. The TUF Nations Finale will be headlined by Michael Bisping, who’ll return to action after a year away, against the American Tim Kennedy.