Usman Nurmagomedov is quickly becoming one of the biggest stars in MMA, thanks to both his fighting ability and his distinguished surname which Khabib help build during his reign at the top of the UFC lightweight division. His cousin, Usman, now aims to reach the top of another MMA organisation and follow in Khabib’s footsteps in becoming the lightweight champion of the world. Of course, Usman still has a long way to go, and as he begins to take storm in Bellator, the harder the tasks facing him will become.
His latest test comes in the shape of Patrik Pietilä, a fellow European, who is not only looking to steal the show at Bellator 269, but steal his opponent’s stardom. Pietilä returns for the first time in over two years since his Bellator debut which he lost on a close decision to Ryan Roddy at Bellator 227.
Interview with Patrik Pietilä
Patrik, it’s been over two years since you last fought and now we are entering fight week, how is life treating you right now?
Patrik Pietilä – It’s good, I’m really excited to get the fight finally because for me two years is a long time because I’m used to fighting like three times a year. So now having gone two years without a fight it’s been bad, but I’m really happy and excited to finally get the fight and it’s the big one, so what better way to come back.
I say it’s been two years since you last fought, can you tell us the reasoning behind that, why have you been away for two years?
Patrik Pietilä – First of all, COVID of course, the events didn’t happen and after they started doing them, this was the first real offer I got. There was some small offers, but this one was the one we picked.
Were you surprised to hear Usman Nurmagomedov would be the name you were returning against?
Patrik Pietilä – Yes, it was a huge name for me because after the loss in the last fight I would never have imagined I would get the fight against a ranked sixth opponent, it’s a great opportunity for me.
Two years without a fight, how frustrating has it been not being able to avenge your debut loss in Bellator?
Patrik Pietilä – The last fight, I thought and still feel like I won the first two rounds, but now it’s time to show them what I’m about. If the fight goes to decision, I will get that decision victory this time.
What did you learn from your Bellator debut that you can take into this fight with confidence you are a better fighter?
Patrik Pietilä – The most important thing is that I need to push myself more and do more, after the first two rounds John Kavanaugh told him that he needs to finish me to win the fight. So I felt like I won the first two rounds, so I felt like I wasn’t pushing myself in the last round, because I was thinking I had won the first two rounds and I just survived and that was a huge mistake I made. Of course he’s a really talented BJJ fighter, so it was hard to get up from the bottom in the last round, so I need to just push myself more in the situations where the fight is seeming to go my way.
You’re facing one of the biggest stars in MMA right now. What do you make of him, do you believe in the hype behind him right now?
Patrik Pietilä – He’s young, he’s like nine or ten years younger then me, I think he’s really hungry, he’s fighting in his hometown and he’s really talented. But I will do all I can to get the victory over him and I’m not giving him any inch. I will push him and I will do everything to get the victory. I’m so hungry, for two years I’ve been resting and now I get back in a huge event so I just want that win so badly.
You’re fighting in his backyard, does it scare you at all that everyone in that arena is going to be against you?
Patrik Pietilä – I’m not really scared, I’ve experienced it before when I fought David Bielkheden in Sweden because that was pretty crazy, everyone was cheering for him, but I got the victory over there and I’m planning on doing the same thing in Russia.
With you facing Usman Nurmagomedov, it’s fair to say you will be a big underdog looking at how his past opponents have been priced, how do you feel about that, do you feel people will be underestimating you?
Patrik Pietilä – I think they will look at it as an easy victory for him and they’ll just look at it like let’s get this victory and move on, but they don’t know I’m so ready. Even though it was short notice, but it was good training for me and I always stay fit so if I get a short notice fight, I’m able to make weight. So they will see, I will give a good fight for him and I will get the W.
What do you have to offer that he hasn’t faced in previous opponents?
Patrik Pietilä – I’m bigger, faster and more talented than the opponents before because the guys he has fought they have been smaller than him and they don’t have the reach advantage. While it seems I’m longer and more reachable, so I think he will be surprised about that one.
Where do you believe he is strongest as a fighter, because compared to his cousin Khabib he’s more of a striker really and his manager previously said he is a better version of khabib, do you believe that personally?
Patrik Pietilä – I think it’s the hype behind him, I believe he’s a good wrestler of course, but so am I and I think he’s best in his standup like he’s fast with his hands and with his kicks. So if I just stand in front of him he will just out box and kick me, it’s not a surprise, so I will need to push him a lot so he will need to lean back and I can hit my own strikes.
Are you looking to test him in every area, are you looking to wrestle with him and strike with him on the feet as well?
Patrik Pietilä – Of course, every fight starts on the feet so let’s see where it goes, I’m planning to strike and try to outbox him, but if I need to wrestle with him, then I wrestle. It doesn’t really matter where the fight goes I’m prepared in all aspects.
Tell me, how will the fight go on Saturday and how are you planning to end the hype train?
Patrik Pietilä – Well he’s a great fighter, so I’m not planning that I will submit him, and KO him in the first round, he comes there as a prepared fighter as a real pro. So I think I’m going to push him and get the decision win, I just need to push him all the time and if I get the opportunity to finish him, of course I will take the choke, or knock him out, but I think he’s so professional he won’t give any easy opportunities so I just need to work more than him and push him all the time.
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