Yusup Saadulaev is a man on a mission. He has won seven out of his last eight fights with the only loss coming at the hands of the newly crowned bantamweight champion.
The 35 year old is determined to secure a shot at the bantamweight belt and he wants to do it the hard way. Saadulaev plans to take out #5 ranked Troy Worthen at ONE: ‘Collision Course’ on Friday and then take on top contender John Lineker,
“If I win this fight I would like to call out Lineker. He beat the number one guy in Kevin [Belingon] and if I beat Lineker I am 100% sure I am first in line for the title.”
To secure a fight with Lineker he will almost certainly need to become the first fighter to ever defeat Worthen. It is a tall order but Saadulaev says he is up to it,
“I think he is well rounded, his background is wrestling but on the fights he is mostly standing up and he has pretty good Muay Thai, a very good left kick. I think I have an advantage, my grappling is better in my opinion if it goes to the ground.”
Saadulaev made his pro debut in 2008 and says his superior experience will be vital when he faces Worthen,
“I don’t think age is a factor because my last opponent was also ten years younger than me and was very tough and here experience will solve this problem.”
It will be the Russian’s first fight in over a year but he says life is back to normal in Moscow and preparations have gone entirely according to plan,
”I was out for a long time and I’m very happy to be back. Gyms are full in Moscow so I had lots of sparring partners, old trainers were there and it was all good. No injuries, no nothing.”
The 35 year old is keeping his cards very close to his chest but hints at a specific strategy that has been made in Moscow,
“In my training camp me and my trainers saw a couple of weaknesses in his game,” he said.
As a native of Dagestan he has been following the career of Khabib Nurmagamedov closely. Saadulaev was disappointed at the undefeated UFC lightweight champion’s recent decision to retire,
“I think maybe a little bit early for him because every fight he is improving more and more but there is lots of pressure on him. As a fan I would like to see him fighting more.”
If Saadulaev is feeling the pressure he is not letting it show. The Russian sounds extremely confident and has pledged to spoil his opponent’s perfect professional record this Friday,
“I do not predict fights but I will go for the win and go for the finish.”