As is the case with most Dejan Kajic fights, don’t blink.
Throughout his career, Kajic, 34, has been known to be involved in hard-hitting, thrilling affairs, and he said to expect more of the same on Saturday night.
“Every fight I do I go to finish. Out of my 11 wins, I’ve finished nine,” said Kajic in an interview.
“I will exploit his holes, I’ll find his patterns, I’ll setup booby traps, and I’ll setup land mines. Once I setup ten of those, he’s going to step in one of them, and I’m going to capitalize and put him to sleep or submit him.”
Kajic earned the strap in his last outing at BFL 61, a first round knockout over an up-and-coming prospect in Eric McConico Jr.
And while the belt was the most significant takeaway from that contest, Kajic said he proved to himself and the rest of the MMA world he belongs at the top.
“I had no videos on Eric and he had tons of video on me, so I knew I was going to end up playing cards with my hands open, and not be able to see what cards they’re playing,” said Kajic.
“The fact that a top guy like Saeid Mirzaei did three rounds with him and did a draw, while I knocked him out in the first round shows I belong at the next level.”
Just over one week ago, this title defence against Centeno, was in danger of being canceled, not due to an injury or medical issues, but because Kajic was on the short list to replace Sergey Khandozhko to take on Michel Pereira at UFC Vancouver.
The spot ended up going to Tristan Connelly, a close friend and teammate of Kajic, who went on to defeat Pereira as the biggest underdog on the card.
Kajic said although he was longing for the opportunity for himself, he was happy Connelly was given the shot, and said him being on the short list lets him know he’s close to receiving his call.
“It was bittersweet. I was a little heartbroken I didn’t get the contract, but also happy to have cornered him in that fight anyways,” said Kajic.
“It also opens the door and shows me I’m on their radar, and if they didn’t know me, they know me more now. This fight means more than anything now, so if I smash this guy I’ll be the next guy to call when there’s a card in Canada.”
Centeno Thriving in New Home
While originally from Ecuador, Centeno, 28, made the move to Vancouver earlier this year and began training with the team at Tristar Vancouver.
Centeno said the move to Vancouver was sparked by the Ultimate Fighter show rumoured to be in South America being called off, which was a platform he was hoping to use to make his way to the big show.
“After they canceled the show, I had to look for another way to enter the UFC, in another country and another promotion,” said Centeno in an interview.
“That’s why I’m here; I’m looking for the dream.”
Throughout his career, Centeno has proven to be well-rounded, holding wins by both knockout and submission, while also earning all eight of his wins before the final bell.
Centeno said he feels comfortable wherever the fight goes, but always prefers to keep it on the feet and put his striking to work.
“I prefer the fight standing, but I don’t have any problem with it going down,” said Centeno.
“I have a good ground and pound game, but I also heard Dejan likes the striking too, so that’s better for me.”
After a rocky start to his career, Centeno has turned a corner in a big way, having won his last four fights, including an impressive win over Diego Mauricio Jaimes Otalora in his last outing to capture the EMMA interim welterweight title.
After his last loss back in Dec. 2016, Centeno said he knew he needed to make significant changes if he wanted to turn his career around. And he did just that.
“After my last loss, I had to fix my mind and train hard,” said Centeno.
“I trained hard every single day and, since 2016, I haven’t lost a fight.”