Professional MMA is finally set to return in Canada.
Aldergrove, B.C.’s Josh Kwiatkowski (4-2) and Kelowna, B.C.’s Blake Sigvaldason (3-2) will do battle at Rise FC 6. The featherweight fight bolsters a card that marks a return to regional MMA in Canada. The pugilistic proceedings emanate from Songhees Wellness Centre in Victoria, B.C.
Kwiatowski is a lifelong athlete who has always had the means to be active. So, the stiflingly inactive nature of the pandemic was, at times, frustrating, to say the least, so much so that Kwiatkowski described 2020 as the toughest year of his life.
“Obviously, it was tough. So many changes and this quarantine I think made or broke a lot of young fighters. You can’t miss a whole year of training. You can’t miss a year of progression. And I did not. This last year, I’ve stayed fit, I’ve stayed learning, and I stayed grinding the entire time, trying to fill the holes in my game and constantly tweaking things to try to get the most out of my time,” said Kwiatkowski in an interview with MMA Empire.
“I’ve been a little frustrated, a little angry, wanting to compete, and that’s not going to change. I always want to compete and I always want to fight. So, I’m going to be a little spicy until I get what I want.”
This bout marks Sigvaldason’s return since his Rise FC 4 fight in July 2019, and the excitement is palpable.
While some pivoting was necessary, Sigvaldason, 27, largely seemed to adapt pretty fluidly to the changes in training amid a global pandemic.
“Usually I would do team practice and then go to all the different classes that are offered by Toshido. But because it’s been closed down during the pandemic, we’ve been kind of forced to kind of put together our own schedule. We still do the team practice and stuff, but all the extra sessions we kind of put together on our own, for the most part,” said Sigvaldason in an interview with MMA Empire.
“I’m excited to get back in there and show what I’ve been working on. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in the cage and even in that last fight, it only lasted under a minute or something. So, exactly didn’t get to show anything that I’ve been working on.”
Kwiatkowski coming in prepared
Kwiatkowski enters this bout on the heels of a second round TKO victory over Randy Mahon at Rise FC 5.
Although he left with the victory, Kwiatkowski said it wasn’t all smooth sailing, including having issues with his weight cut.
“To be honest, it wasn’t ideal. I mean, fighting is never ideal, but there were situations leading up to that fight. A lot of fighters are given choices and opportunities to not make it to the fight. Some fighters choose to dig deep and get their ass to the fight. I did that. It was great, got the finish in the second round,” said Kwiatkowski.
“Things happen in this fight journey that can be taken as lessons or you can just run over them and miss them. But that whole fight camp and that weight cut was meant to happen. It was meant to make me more professional, disciplined, and smarter.”
Kwiatkowski is training under Shawn Albrecht and Dan Golkar with Ascension Martial Arts and Scorpion Martial Arts. He also got in work this camp at 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu Etobicoke with Submission Underground vet Micah Brakefield.
Kwiatkowski said the gym dynamic with multiple bouts upcoming creates tangible energy amongst everybody putting in the work.
“My team is packed right now with upcoming fights. Me and Keanan (Kellar) not being the same weight division, we don’t get as much work in, but we’re constantly going for runs, we’re constantly tweaking schedules, and strength and conditioning training. We share a lot of the same coaches,” said Kwiatkowski.
“It’s the same goal; me and him want to get to the UFC. That’s all our goal is, to work as hard and as smart as we can, and be as dedicated and disciplined as we can. Just have faith that the hard work is going to pay off and have fun doing it.”
Having shared multiple fight cards with Sigvaldason in the past, Kwiatkowski is no stranger to what he brings to the table.
Kwiatkowski described the gameplan for this bout as one that is fairly black and white.
“Blake has like three wins by rear-naked choke or submission. I have three wins by knockout. I’m not afraid to go to the ground with him. At the end of the day, when you see when you can cut someone and you can put them out, I’m going to take the path of least issues. I’m not going to jump into where he’s strong, but I know he’s aware that I put people out,” said Kwiatkowski.
“I know once I touch him there’s going to be some panic and there’s going to be some wrestling exchanges. But I think people are going to be impressed with the gains I’ve made in my wrestling and grappling because I’m becoming a lot more well-rounded. I’m excited to see and show people what I’ve got in my arsenal now.”
Sigvaldason confident in upper hand in certain aspects
For being only five fights into his professional career, Sigvaldason has already shared the cage with some of Canada’s top bantamweights, including Michael Imperato and Jamie Siraj.
Sigvaldason’s thoughts on Kwiatkowski indicate there is a mutual respect dynamic between these two heading into their contest.
“I think he’s a good opponent, a good test for me. I think he’s well-rounded, but I just think I’m better than him in a few select skillsets,” said Sigvaldason.
“I’m just going to try and put him where he’s uncomfortable.”
And while the focus is locked in on Saturday night’s bout, Sigvaldason said he does have a few overall goals for the year.
“My main goal is just to get as many fights as I can this year. Hopefully get some titles and then, by the end of the year, go from there,” said Sigvaldason.
Redemptive paths and returning from defeat are not unfamiliar to Sigvaldason.
This is the same Sigvaldason who spent 28 hours by Greyhound without a coach or a corner for an early-career fight. He was 0-3 as an amateur, pushed beyond that, and eventually captured a professional title, pushing beyond adversity, even at those early junctures.
“It’s something I’ve always kind of held is just perseverance, you know. I put too much time and energy into it,” said Sigvaldason.
“I’m not going to let a few speed bumps get in the way. Even if there are big speed bumps, keep moving forward.”