Some look at Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and see a fighter whose prime has passed.
The legendary competitor is nearly 13 years removed from his PRIDE Grand Prix tournament victory, and just passed the seventh anniversary of his UFC light heavyweight title loss to Jon Jones at UFC 128.
Volkan Oezdemir, however, is not a fighter who subscribes to the notion “Shogun” is a diminished performer. Rua, after all, is on a three-fight winning streak, and he’ll aim to make it four when he meets Volkan Oezdemir at UFC Chile on May 12.
“‘Shogun’ is still ‘Shogun,’” Oezdemir said on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. “He’s been into wars, he’s not afraid of anything. So he’s still a dangerous fighter, definitely.”
Oezdemir, in fact, considers it an honor to share the cage with Rua, a fighter who he grew up admiring. The 28-year-old from Switzerland says he admired Rua when he was a fan as a teenager, and has considered a fight with Rua a bucket-list sort of goal.
“Since I sign with the UFC, my manager always ask me one thing, he said ‘who do you want to fight?’” Oezdemir said. “The only guy I always say I want to fight was Shogun because he’s somebody who, you know, I grew up watching him. I started watching PRIDE and he was the man at the time and he was one of my favorite fighters.
“So definitely that’s somebody I want to fight. I think it’s just amazing to be able to fight someone you’ve been looking up to.”
The light heavyweight contender hopes to travel to Santiago with a clear mind. It’s been a whirlwind few months for Oezdemir, who lost to champion Daniel Cormier at UFC 220. He went into the bout with a pending court case on an aggravated battery charge in South Florida hanging over his head, and left the fight with both a broken orbital bone and staph infection.
But his physical maladies are healing, and he believes his court case will conclude in his favor soon.
“Thursday, I’m going to have probably the final court date, and definitely everything after that is going to be smoother,” Oezdemir said. “So of course, we have to wait for the judgment, but I know what I did and I know what happened and I’m really not scared or anxious about what’s going to happen. I’m really confident about that court date, and after this, this is going to be all over.”
Then he’ll enter the Rua fight in unfamiliar territory: As of now, Ozedemir is the favorite on the betting lines.
“I think that’s the first time I was favorite in my UFC career, and that’s pretty great,” Oezdemir said. “Actually, it is really nice to see that way, fighting a legend like Shogun and being called the favorite, when all of my fights I was underdog, 5-to-1 and stuff like that. So it is pretty amazing and I think it just means also that I have cemented my place in the division. Now people take me serious and they know what I am capable of.”
But being the favorite won’t lull Oezdemir into a false sense of security against Rua.
“He’s like the guy who has the most winning streak in the division, so actually he’s the real deal right now,” Oezdemir said. “And I think he’s closer to a title shot [than I], so it makes perfect sense for me.”