Volkan Oezdemir isn’t surprised he’s still getting a UFC title shot despite his November arrest.
After three straight wins in the Octagon, Oezdemir was clearly next in line for a crack at light heavyweight gold, especially after Daniel Cormier was reinstated as champion when Jon Jones failed a drug test. All as the underdog, Oezdemir defeated Ovince Saint Preux, Misha Cirkunov, and Jimi Manuwa within seven months — and two of those fights ended less than two minutes in.
But a wrench was presumably thrown into the UFC’s plans at 205 pounds when Oezdemir was arrested on Nov. 18 for aggravated battery stemming from an alleged August bar incident. “No Time” was taken into custody but released on bond the following day.
However, Oezdemir’s arrest did not end up affecting the then-planned Cormier bout. Late last month, the title fight was confirmed for UFC 220 on Jan. 20 in Boston.
And Oezdemir’s prediction came true: the Swiss fighter still expected to fight Cormier as planned, even after the legal issues came to light.
“I knew it was gonna happen,” Oezdemir told BloodyElbow.com. “I called for it for a while, and finally I have it, so it’s perfect. I wanted to have the title fight after my last fight right away, but Jon Jones was trying to fight maybe with Brock (Lesnar) or something else, trying to get any money fights. So I was like, ‘Maybe it’s time to do a No. 1 contenders matchup.’ And then all the situation happened, and finally I’m back in contention.
“I think it was the perfect timing for everybody. I think [Cormier] needed some time off, and now he wanted [to fight], and I want the title anytime soon, I wanted it ASAP.”
Oezdemir, who said he couldn’t talk about the specifics of the arrest because it is still an “ongoing case,” isn’t having difficulties staying focused during his ongoing training camp. The legal issues still stand, but they are not on his mind just over a month out from the biggest fight of his life.
According to Oezdemir, “everything is going smooth.” His lawyer’s main concern is the arrest, he said, while his is Cormier.
“Everybody has their own goal. Everybody has their own job. My job is to train and fight, and everybody else is handling their own job,” Oezdemir said. “It’s not hard for me to focus. I have a great team around me, so everything is handled properly.
“Feeling great. Only great news. No problems. I’m feeling very confident about the future.”
Oezdemir made his debut at UFC Fight Night 104 on Feb. 4 in Houston. He stepped up against Saint Preux, then the UFC’s No. 6 light heavyweight, as a relative unknown. At the time he got the call from the UFC, he was scheduled to fight for the Titan FC heavyweight title.
Oezdemir made the most of the opportunity, defeating Saint Preux by split decision, and he followed that victory up with two upset knockouts in May and July. Before long, Oezdemir was considered one of the best 205-pound fighters on the planet and in the title mix.
And Oezdemir still hasn’t even reached the one-year anniversary of his UFC career.
“Definitely it’s crazy,” he said. “It’s something that nobody expected, because nobody knew me back in the day. Nobody knew who I was, and nobody were able to know the potential that I had. I had two really quick fights, and nobody really knew what to expect for the next fight. Definitely the rise has been pretty fast, for sure, and I feel the best.”
In hindsight, heading into his promotional debut, Oezdemir did not expect to make one of the biggest rises the UFC has ever seen in so little time. Before fighting Saint Preux, he wasn’t concerned about the bout’s potential stakes.
“So my first fight, I didn’t think about that,” he said. “But I knew I was fighting the No. 6 in the world, somebody that had his chance for the title right away, somebody that fought Jon Jones. I knew I was really close, and I just kept on going with this, because after that win, then I fought another up-and-coming guy (Misha Cirkunov), who was also in the title talks; everybody was saying he was one of the best prospects. Anything that happened after the first fight was part of the process.”
And how does he expect to get the job done at UFC 220? You already know.
“It’s gonna be a first-round knockout.”