Volkan Oezdemir enjoys the struggle toward title

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LONDON – It may sound crazy, but Volkan Oezdemir likes being uncomfortable.

At UFC Fight Night 208 at The O2 on Saturday, Oezdemir (18-6 MMA, 6-5 UFC) defeated Paul Craig (16-5-1 MMA, 8-5-1 UFC) by unanimous decision, his first win in nearly three years.

“I’m happy about the performance,” Oezdemir told MMA Junkie and other reporters at a post-fight news conference. “I knew Paul was a tough guy. He’s an ace on the floor. The game plan was easy: Make it really tight on the floor, prevent him from doing any actions, stand back up and put the fight on the feet. The game plan was really, really good. I stopped a lot of or all of his takedowns. Obviously, I showed that I have my strengths in every department.”

Since 2019, Oezdemir has encountered a ton of bumps in the road. There were withdrawals, losses, injuries, visa issues, inactivity, and a pandemic. But through all the pain, Oezdemir found a greater sense of enjoyment than he’s ever had before.

“The first time I got a title shot (in 2018), it happened really fast,” Oezdemir said. “(It was) not even one year. Eleven months from my signing with the UFC, I was fighting for a title – three fights and then a title shot. It happened so fast I didn’t even have time to enjoy it. Now I’ve had the setbacks. I’ve had to struggle. I’ve had the issues with visas and stuff. Now I really feel it. I feel the grind, the struggle. I enjoy it even more. I enjoy the climb back up, because now you have to earn it with sweat and blood, and this is really what I like.”

So what’s the next step for the perennial UFC light heavyweight contender? Oezdemir thinks there are a number of opponent options. He’s open to all of them, even if it means fighting backward. As for a location, he’s more zoned in on exactly what he wants.

“I’m really excited for UFC Paris,” Oezdemir said. “I want to be a part of it. It’s the first (UFC) event in France. That’ll be amazing for the French crowd. I’m also a French-speaking guy, so that will be perfect. (Either) way, I’m going to be there, fighting or not. It’s going to be huge for France and all of the French-speaking people. I’m really happy about that.

“… A lot of people are taken right now. The result of the fight (Thiago) Santos vs. (Jamahal) Hill, there is a lot of opportunity. Maybe (Nikita) Krylov now, as well. We’ll see. We’ll see what’s next. I’ll take anybody. If everybody is taken, I’d even go (outside) the top 10. If I can get a fight, I’m going to get a fight. Now I just showed what I’m worth, beating a No. 8. I’m going to take anybody to go back to title contention.”

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