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Volkan Oezdemir: Facing former training partner Ilir Latifi requires ‘different mindset’

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Volkan Oezdemir has tried to avoid fighting friend and former training partner Ilir Latifi, but the Swiss light heavyweight’s visa situation has somewhat forced him into a bout with “The Sledgehammer”.

Oezdemir is still trying to sort out some issues with his U.S. visa stemming from a 2018 felony battery case, despite the charges against him being dismissed. As he is currently unable to compete in the U.S., the UFC could only offer him two opponents for this weekend’s Stockholm event, either against former teammate Latifi or former opponent Jimi Manuwa. Given his quick dispatch of Manuwa in 2017, Oezdemir thought Latifi made more sense as a counterpart this time around.

“I trained with Ilir in 2011, the first time I was in the U.S.,” Oezdemir told MMA Fighting’s Eurobash podcast.

“We trained together for five weeks and we really hit it off. We’ve stayed friends and we talk from time to time. I was eager to fight after taking three losses [in a row], but because of my visa I cannot fight in the U.S. right now, I must fight on the European cards.

“I wanted to get back on track because I was really feeling disgusted about the outcome of my last fight. I told the UFC I really wanted to fight in Stockholm; [the event] was two or three months away from my last fight. They told me the only possible opponents for the card were Ilir and Manuwa, and I’ve beat him already anyway. The choice turned out to be Ilir.”

Oezdemir feels as though he and Latifi will be “work colleagues” in the UFC Stockholm co-main event.

“One of my coaches from Turkey told me [Latifi’s] manager contacted him and he was fine with it; it’s just business at the end of the day. I don’t wish him any harm, it’s like two work colleagues, let’s put it that way. We’re going to be colleagues on fight night, we’ll be earning money together and may the best man win,” he said.

“No Time” was quick to point out that he has never known an opponent as well as he knows Latifi.

“I’ve been fighting guys that I’ve trained with, but maybe I’ve only trained with them twice, so it wasn’t really a big thing,” explained Oezdemir. “With Ilir, it’s going to be a bit different; it’s going to be a different mindset going into the fight. I have no hatred towards him; just respect. It will be a good war, I know it will be like a good game. We’re going to fight to the best of our abilities and bring the best out of each other.”

Having felt Latifi’s patented grappling game first hand, Oezdemir drafted in the help of undefeated prospect and Cage Warriors title contender, Marthin Hamlet, who is a highly decorated Norwegian wrestler in is own right.

“I’ve been training with an up-and-coming fighter, he’s probably going to be in the UFC some day, Marthin Hamlet. It’s a good way to prepare myself to face Ilir because he’s a great Greco-Roman wrestler and freestyle wrestler. [Marthin] is a great wrestler too, so it was perfect for me to do my camp with him.”

Oezdemir’s U.S. visa is currently being processed. He hopes to return to the U.S. soil for training and to compete in the near future.

“Everything is finished now, we just have to wait on the visa to be processed; it’s processing now and we just have to wait. I don’t really know how long I have to wait, but that’s my position right now.”

Check out the latest episode of Eurobash. The Volkan Oezdemir interview begins at 25:00.