UFC Fighter George Sotiropoulos Moves Up the Lightweight Rankings
Sotiropoulos wrestles with his ambition in lightweight title tilt
AUSTRALIA'S George Sotiropoulos believes he is within three fights of conquering the UFC's talent-stacked lightweight division.
George Sotiropoulos lands a blow against Joe Stevenson during their lightweight fight in Sydney. Photo: Getty Images
Riding an incredible six-fight winning streak, and on the back of his domination against household name Joe Stevenson in Sydney last February, Sotiropoulos has emerged as a serious contender.
Sotiropoulos believes two more victories would put him in line to face the lightweight titleholder - currently Frankie Edgar, who has a rematch with rival BJ Penn at UFC 118 in August.
As he approaches a showdown with Kurt Pellegrino at UFC 116 in Las Vegas on July 3, Sotiropoulos is feeling more confident by the day.
Asked how many fights he believed it would take him to land a title shot, Sotiropoulos told the Herald: "I would say maybe two fights.
"But I don't look past my opponents.
"I would say a win [against Pellegrino] would put me in the upper echelon of the lightweight division (70kg).
"As always, if I keep winning it is going to put me against the best.
"You can make plans beyond a fight but until that fight happens those plans won't amount to anything."
Now residing in the Washington city of Vancouver, Sotiropoulos will have one more week of serious training before easing back prior to the fight.
He sees an advantage in fighting Pellegrino after Stevenson, who he defeated by unanimous decision over all three rounds at the Acer Arena in the UFC's debut Australian show.
"In many ways he is similar to my last opponent, they both have wrestling backgrounds," said Sotiropoulos, unbeaten in his five fights since entering the UFC and with a 12-2 professional record with featuring stoppages.
"I think Stevenson is stronger, Pellegrino (15-4 with 12 stoppages) is more agile and faster. I think their ground games are on par.
"I think they are equal calibre as fighters, I think Stevenson's boxing is a little better.
"Their business is in wrestling, they go back to that in times of need, they look for the top position. It's all about wrestling for them.
"My regime hasn't changed, you can't change the way you prepare because it makes you fight differently to the way you normally fight.
"I study my opponents very closely. I have got all their UFC fights, I am well informed of their previous fights.
"The key for me is to work on everything, I don't ignore anything in my training, I pay equal attention to everything: jiu-jitsu, boxing, MMA, wrestling.
"I have to make my strengths part of my game plan, and impose my strengths against him.
"I have prepared for all avenues. if I end up on the ground, I can do well from there. Any scenario, I am prepared for. I address it all."
In his two previous fights in Las Vegas, Sotiropoulos has scored submissions wins via rear naked choke (against Billy Miles) and armbar (against Jason Dent).
"I am where I want to be, my weight is coming down, my conditioning is good, sparring has been going well.
"I know Australia will be watching me, and I am grateful for the support, but it doesn't make a difference to the way I fight - for years I have been travelling around the world alone.
"I have had to manage myself, ultimately I will have to rise to the occasion and show up on the night."
This guy has the potential to become an Australian legend. He reckons he is two or three fights from the title and I agree, if not sooner, he looks great and is a very rounded and dedicated fighter.
His win in front of his home crowd elicited one of the wildest responses I have ever witnessed from an Australian sporting audience, we might as well have won the World Cup (in rugby union). Although he is not yet widely known, he will soon capture the mainstream as Australia's media have a change of heart and MMA, the once described "brutal" sport of "human cockfighting" will become "a beautiful display of honour and skill".
If, wait, when he takes the title, watch out world, Australia very well might take over the ranks due to the increased exposure.
George, we are behind you all the way, mate.