This Saturday night Volkan Oezdemir will make his UFC debut against the number six ranked light heavyweight in the world, Ovince St.Preux. In doing so he will become the first Swiss fighter to set foot inside of the world renowned octagon and represent the culmination of a life time of hard work and sacrifice. So how does a country known for it’s fervent neutrality and fine chocolates produce one of the most violent knockout artist in the world?
Volkan’s passion for combat sports dates back to his childhood in Fribourg. Inspired by late great, Swiss K-1 superstar Andy Hug, he began training traditional martial arts like Kenpo Karate and Capoeira in early childhood. By his later teens he discovered boxing and had unknowingly begun to lay the base for his future career as a MMA fighter.
At eighteen he traveled to Thailand for vacation, while in the tropical paradise he trained the local method of pugilism adding Muay Thai into his steadily increasing striking repertoire. Oezdemir embraced the “art of eight limbs”, so much so that the following year he made a b-line to the Netherlands where he would have the opportunity to train at Holland’s famed Golden Glory Gym, home of many fighters Volkan grew up watching including former PRIDE star Alistair Overeem.
Now nineteen, Oezdemir was passionate about combat sports but had never considered a career as a fighter. All of that would change when the young Swiss athlete caught the eye of the aforementioned Overeem. “The Reem” was impressed by Oezdemir’s attitude and god given abilities, he invited him to follow him in his training for his NYE K-1 rules bout against Badr Hari (which went pretty well for Overeem). Overeem convinced the teenager to pursue a life as a fighter and arranged Volkan’s amateur debut. He won the fight with a first round head kick knockout and found his calling.
Volkan picked up two more amateur victories in the Netherlands before returning to Switzerland where he began training at the Fight Move Academy under the guidance of Nelson Carvalho.
Over the next three years Oezdemir would hone his skills and build a impressive professional resume taking fights in France, Brazil and Denmark. In this period Volkan went 9-0 with eight stoppages. Also in this period he would travel to the United States for the first time to train with the newly formed Blackzilians fight team. The few weeks that he would spend working with some of the world’s best athletes and coaches would prepare him for the next stage of his career.
Bellator took notice of the undefeated youngsters talent and signed him to compete in their light heavyweight division. His first fight for Bellator would be against 6’6″ Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt Josh Lanier. Volkan showcased his developing skill set by taking the grappling specialist down and pounding him out in the first round.
Next Oezdemir was matched up with American Top Team trained, collegiate wrestler Kelly Anundson. Anundson wanted no part of the stand up game and would continually shoot to take the fight to the ground. The veteran fighter was able to utilize his years of wrestling experience to neutralize Volkan and hand him his first loss.
Bellator notified Oezdemir that he would be shelved for a significant amount of time in order to compete in a tournament the following year. Wanting to fight immediately Volkan asked for and was granted his release from the promotion and booked a fight back in Switzerland.
Oezdemir won his first fight outside of Bellator via first round knockout, but the Anundson loss made it clear to him that if he was going to be the best in the world he was going to have to obsess about becoming a better wrestler. Unfortunately Switzerland is not exactly a hot bed of wrestling. In the start of 2015 he made the decision to move to Florida and reunite with the Blackzilians where he would now train full time.
His first fight as a Blackzilian was a victory in Russia over hometown favorite Alikhan Vakhaev. Now 12-1 Oezdemir signed with Titan FC a Florida based promotion that is one of the main feeder organizations to the UFC.
2016 would prove to be a frustrating year for the 26 year old Volkan. On two separate occasions he was booked to fight for Titan FC’s heavyweight title and on both occasions his opponent was forced to pull out of their fight leaving him inactive for the entire year.
Shortly after receiving word that his second title fight was canceled, Oezdemir’s luck took a turn for the positive. He received a call notifying him that UFC light heavyweight Jan Blachowicz injured himself in preparation for his bout with Ovince St.Preux and the fight against the sixth ranked fighter in the world was his if he wanted it.
He jumped on the monumental opportunity and accepted the fight with OSP on two weeks notice on the main card of a nationally televised UFC Fight Night. This fight will be of extreme importance for not only Oezdemir’s career but also the acceptance of MMA as a legitimate sport on a world wide stage.
Volkan is from a region of Switzerland that is geographically and culturally very similar to France, where MMA is still illegal. A win for Oezdemir, coupled with the emergence of French/Cameroon star Francis Nganou will bring the sport one step closer to worldwide acceptance and Oezdemir one step closer to UFC gold.
Check out this highlight reel of Volkan Oezdemir, including a few highlights from his kickboxing career in which he is 5-0