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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Farah Hannoun

Volkan Oezdemir eyes a fight with Thiago Santos or Alexander Gustafsson next

Volkan Oezdemir has taken on stiff competition throughout his UFC career and plans on keeping it that way.

After dropping three straight fights, Oezdemir (17-4 MMA, 5-3 UFC) finds himself back on the road to title contention, with back-to-back wins over Ilir Latifi and Aleksandar Rakic. And with many pivotal light heavyweight matchups coming up, Oezdemir will wait to see how things play out.

“Nothing is fixed now. I have some personal stuff that I need to attend,” Oezdemir told MMA Junkie on Tuesday. “Plus all the big dogs in the division have a fight lined up, so I am training hard and waiting to see how things unfold.”

Oezdemir has two potential opponents in mind: Former UFC title challenger Thiago Santos, who’s currently healing from a torn ACL, and former two-time UFC title challenger Alexander Gustafsson, who recently expressed interest in coming out of retirement.

“Thiago Santos will be a fun fight that will bring a lot of fireworks, and I also still want the Gustafsson fight,” Oezdemir said. “I know he plays dead until he find an easy fight, but in the meantime I want to stay active and fight the stronger guy out there.”

Constantly traveling and getting looks from all over the world, Oezdemir is currently training in Thailand.

“I love Thailand, and I love the training there,” Oezdemir said. “I went a few times with Alistair Overeem, and it’s the perfect location to go when it’s winter back home. You eat good, you train good, and you’re enjoying life. It’s a no-brainer.”

In his last outing in December, Oezdemir edged Rakic at UFC on ESPN+ 23, putting a halt to Rakic’s undefeated UFC winning streak. But “No Time” plans on leaving no doubt moving forward by putting guys away, which is what once propelled him to a title shot after just three UFC fights.

“Rakic started strong but lost momentum after the first round,” Oezdemir said. “I injured his leg, and it made him slow down a lot. It wasn’t a decisive victory, and this is something I don’t want to have in my future anymore. I’ve been on the wrong end of a split decision fight (Reyes), and this is because I didn’t do enough. My goal is to finish fights so there is nothing to be questioned about.”

Oezdemir’s controversial split decision loss to Dominick Reyes, who challenges Jon Jones for the title Saturday, was a tough pill to swallow. It handed Oezdemir his third straight loss and helped push Reyes to a No. 1 contender fight against former UFC middleweight champ Chris Weidman.

The win over Weidman earned the undefeated Reyes a title shot against Jones, but Oezdemir thinks it’s highly unlikely the title will change hands.

“I think I took a lot out of him,” Oezdemir said. “He went AWOL after our fight and didn’t even text back his soon to be ex-new camp. He bounced back for his last fight, but he is up to a big task. I wish him luck, but I see Jones winning the fight.”

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