Roberto Soldic is well on his way to reaching legend status in KSW and now he has his chance to knock off a certified one.
“Robocop” challenges middleweight champion Mamed Khalidov (35-7-2) in the main event of KSW 65 in Gliwice, Poland, on Saturday. A win would make Soldic (19-3) a two-division champion as he brings the promotion’s welterweight title into the matchup.
Talk of a superfight between the two has percolated in the European MMA scene for a while, but it wasn’t until Soldic made a cageside challenge to Khalidov following a recent title defense over Patrik Kincl that the fight became all-but-official.
“I beat [Kincl] and I think in my head, ‘That’s enough. I want to fight now the best guy. The best guy in KSW is Mamed Khalidov. No one like him,’ Soldic said in a recent interview with MMA Fighting.
“When I jump [the cage], no, it’s only respect. I say to him, ‘Look, everybody wants to see this fight.’ He’s now 41 years old but still very dangerous. He’s a champion and for me double champ sounds good. I want to try because I fought three times at middleweight — one time was catchweight [176 pounds] — so I feel good now in fight week. I can eat a little bit more and feel good, but a little bit weird because 170 I have to cut really hard. He said, ‘Yeah, we can do it and it doesn’t matter who wins, let’s go rematch again because I need some money for my family blah blah blah,’ he talk like this. But full respect.”
Soldic, 26, had wanted to face Khalidov before the Kincl fight was booked. He defeated middleweight standout Michal Materla at KSW 56, but when he told the promotion that he wanted Khalidov next, KSW President Martin Lewandowski presented him with the Kincl bout first.
So Soldic went through Kincl to pick up his sixth straight win, then proceeded to confront the man who he credits with helping to build KSW as well as the Polish MMA scene. However, just because Kincl has been watching Soldic since he was a teenager, that doesn’t mean he could have foreseen how the lead-up to their fight has played out.
“I didn’t plan to do this,” Soldic said. “Everything that’s going on was without a plan, only in my head, because I looked to him. I need a challenge, this is a big challenge for me. What gives me motivation to go again to train, I’m four years now in KSW. I beat many, many guys there and now I want some different level.
“Fans, they always say, ‘You have to fight with Mamed, it’s gonna be a great fight, you’re both good fighters.’ Then they said ‘yes,’ KSW wanted to do this at the end of the year in December and I said OK.”
The way Soldic sees it, this is one of the biggest fights that can be made outside of the UFC due to the 41-year-old Khalidov’s reputation. Khalidov is one of the best to never step foot in the octagon, holding wins over several UFC and Bellator veterans and is perhaps best known for his classic two-fight series with Jorge Santiago a decade ago in Japan’s Sengoku promotion.
Soldic believes that Khalidov’s success greatly contributed to the credibility of European fighters.
“He’s a legend,” Soldic said. “He made KSW in Poland because he beat so many guys before. He’s one of the top fighters in the world at middleweight outside the UFC.
“Everybody says, ‘Why is he not in the UFC?’ If they pay good money [in KSW], why would he go? We know UFC is the No. 1 biggest league, but we have really, really, very tough fighters outside the UFC. In the UFC, the top 10 is really good guys, but other guys, when I see they came from other organizations, they beat up the UFC fighters. Now, Mamed is tough for me and I like big fights.”
Soldic has already had his own brush with UFC talent, splitting a series with current UFC middleweight Dricus Du Plessis in 2018. Du Plessis won the first fight by third-round KO at KSW 43, but Soldic avenged that loss and regained the welterweight title with a third-round TKO victory in an immediate rematch at KSW 45.
Looking back on his most recent loss, Soldic views it in a positive light and considers it pivotal to the improvements that he’s made since.
“This loss changed my life,” Soldic said. “Better that happened at 22 years old, not like 30 years old when maybe it’s for the UFC belt or something like this. I was young, crazy, a little bit of money in the bank account. I didn’t party, but in this league everything must be perfect. If not, then better don’t fight. I like my style. Some guys go party and they can fight, I don’t like this because I don’t feel secure. So this loss is good.”
Soldic doesn’t rule out concluding the trilogy with Du Plessis someday, but he is solely focused on adding Khalidov’s name to his impressive resume. And should he find himself with straps over both shoulders on Saturday night, he’s open to defending championships across two divisions.
“We will see,” Soldic said. “Maybe Mamed wants to rematch, I can give. But the double champ sounds good.”
The KSW 65 broadcast is available to North American fans on www.KSWTV.com and the KSW App. It is set to begin at 2 p.m. ET.