Port Coquitlam, B.C.’s Ali Wasuk (4-2) meets undefeated Oguzhan Yalcin (2-0) in the bantamweight co-main event of BFL 73 this Thursday at the Harbour Convention Centre in Vancouver, B.C. The event will be available to stream live on UFC Fight Pass.
Wasuk, who captured two amateur titles in BFL and has spent the entirety of his young professional career with the west coast Canadian promotion, is returning from a layoff dating to Dec. 2021 where he came up short in a bid to wrest the BFL bantamweight title off still-champion Serhiy Sidey.
“I personally believe there was a lot more internal issues than external going on with that fight, obviously taking no credit away from Sidey,” said Wasuk in an interview with MMA Empire.
“He showed up that night and had a great game plan, but ultimately I both underestimated my striking and underestimated his wrestling. You know, I thought I could get him down to the ground, but he had a great game plan and knew how to defend well on the takedowns. His mindset seemed to be that he was willing to die before getting taken down. Also, in the second round, I threw a kick and slipped and hit the back of my head on the mat. I remember in between rounds I saw the ring card girl holding up the round four sign and I looked at my coach and was like ‘we’re in the fourth round?’ I thought we were just starting the second round. It was one of the weirdest things that’s ever happened to me in a fight. I’ve never experienced something like that. So when he connected with that body shot in round four I was against the cage looking at the fans and was completely out of it. I was trying to remember what had happened in the last three rounds and was like, ‘am I up or down on the scorecards?’ I was looking at two people in the last row at the very back, zoning out, and that’s when he connected. But you know, I learned a lot of lessons in that fight and it made me a better martial artist.”
While the concussion cannot be separated from the ensuing events and ultimate result of the fight, Wasuk said he chose afterwards to focus on correcting his strategic errors against Sidey as he prepares to rebound against Yalcin.
“I’m going to be looking to adjust in the fight,” said Wasuk.
“With the Sidey fight I was so dedicated to the wrestling that I kind of forgot it was an MMA match. We were game-planning so much to take him down that I should have adjusted when it didn’t work, so in this fight I’m looking just to be in the moment and to have a few tricks up my sleeve when I need them, so if necessary I can beat him with a different tool.”
Now, as he looks ahead to his fighting future, Wasuk said his motivations are simple but grandiose.
He wants to win his way into a major promotion like the UFC, Bellator or One Championship, and set an example for others in similar or earlier stages of their MMA careers and lives.
“Going against the best in the world is a big goal for me. You know, this is purely competition for me, I never hate my opponent. I never want to talk ill will on people. If I say anything it’s just what I feel. It’s just about testing myself against the best and seeing what I can do, how my tools play against the elite of the elite in the sport. And besides that, being able to fight in front of 20,000 people would be super cool as well,” he said.
“Ultimately, it’s about being a great role model for future generations of people that are looking at an immigrant like me who comes into Canada and makes it to the top, and proving it can be done.”
As he does each time he steps in the cage, Wasuk brings with him a life-long acquaintance with karate, the result of familial influences.
“My uncle had a karate academy in Afghanistan and with all the war and everything going on he moved to Russia before my mom did,” said Wasuk, whose father passed away in the Afghanistan war before he was born.
“I was born in Russia and when my uncle moved there he would still train a lot; he trained me and my cousin and brother as well. He never had an academy (in Russia) but nevertheless, growing up with that kind of (karate) culture together as kids meant we’d be practicing fighting and kicking at the house all the time, so I just grew up seeing that. And even before I started doing any training, when we were both super young, my brother and I just liked to wrestle with each other. Neither of us knew jiu-jitsu, but we would be trying different chokes, rear-naked chokes—it just came naturally.”
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