Swiss light-heavyweight Volkan Oezdemir fights like a man with a plan. He also fights like a man who is late; like he has somewhere better to be; like there’s a cab outside with the meter still running. With two knockout wins in a combined 70 seconds this year – against Misha Cirkunov and Jimi Manuwa – he’s covering a lot of ground quickly and is now, thanks to this destructive handiwork, seemingly in line for a shot at the UFC light-heavyweight title.
Oezdemir has a plan, all right. It’s a plan dependent on others – specifically, those at the top of his division (well, Jon Jones) sorting out a mess – but it’s a plan nonetheless.
“I think we just need to wait on the judgements because right now the division is on hold,” he told Fighters Only editor Michael Owens on Thursday in London. “We need to see what’s happening with Jon Jones (and his recent anti-doping violation), plus, we need to see what’s happening with the belt. Are they giving the belt back to (Daniel) Cormier? He was the champ before that but he still lost the fight and got knocked out. Or are they going to leave a vacant belt with two people fighting for it? I think that’s the best solution.
“But while everyone is figuring out the situation, I’ve got time to fight somebody who’s not in the situation right now, which is Gustafsson. I think Gustafsson is not part of the current situation with Jon Jones and the USADA violation, so, in the meantime, me and Alex have all the time in the world to get ready for a fight.”
Oezdemir, as a pre-fight underdog, showed no aversion to fighting fellow contenders Cirkunov and Manuwa this year. Nor would he have an issue fighting someone else on that level while waiting his turn. But, ultimately, he says, it’s a scrap with Gustafsson, the brilliant Swede, that really excites him.
“I think in a perfect world it will be me fighting Gustafsson and then I fight Cormier – or whoever’s going to be there for the belt,” he said. “Or, even more perfect, my next fight will be for the belt – maybe, if they don’t know what to do with the belt, me and Gustafsson will be for the interim belt. My focus right now is on Gustafsson.”
In actual fact, Oezdemir’s primary focus is on healing up. For while he may look a million dollars inside the Octagon, and appear to crumble all he so much as touches, there has been a price to pay.
“It was a staph infection,” he said, referring to his latest hand injury. “It was pretty bad. I had surgery and I need to take some time to heal. It’s strong but I don’t have too much mobility. Nothing is broken.
“I went to a place and they gave me the wrong antibiotic, so there was a lot of pain – so much pain I couldn’t wait for the second doctor. I was told I had to get surgery, but I just said ‘no’. I didn’t want to get surgery. It’s just a bruise, a contusion. I wanted to wait but I was in so much pain. It was killing me. I’ve never had so much pain in my life.
“I had so many pain killers, they gave me more, but for one day I was really bad. Every four hours wasn’t enough so they gave me extra in the IV one more time.
“My fiancée got really mad. She said, ‘Just because he is a big man, you think he feels nothing?’ It was crazy. They gave me something to sleep right away, but I had to wait – because they gave me the wrong antibiotic – until the good one took effect and the swelling went down and they could do the surgery and remove it.
“Now it’s good. I need to use that hand (laughs).”