Last September the UFC hosted its first ever event in Russia, as the Octagon made its way to the great city of Moscow.
The main event of that card pitted two heavyweight legends against one another when Mark Hunt took on Aleksei Oleinik. “The Boa Constructor” would go on to defeat Hunt by submission in the first round. Winning in front of his home fans was something that Oleinik will never forget.
So it only made sense for him to jump into the main event of UFC Saint Petersburg once Alexander Volkov was forced out of his showdown with Alistair Overeem.
“Thank you UFC for this good tradition,” Oleinik said with a chuckle. “When UFC proposed this fight to me I took it. My preparation period was shortened by two but I don’t think that is a very big problem because fighting a big name like Alistair Overeem is very much important to me.”
The truth is that Oleinik and Overeem are actually close friends and have trained together on more than one occasion. Oleinik recalls those training sessions and can only hope that he has totally different results when the bright lights shine on him and Overeem this Saturday.
“I have respect for Alistair Overeem. He is very strong guy,” Oleinik said. “I try to choke him many times but I couldn’t do it anytime. This is a one more challenge for me, I might try to do something new for him and I’m sure he prepare something special for me too. I hope after the fight we shake hands we say ‘thank you my friend for this fight.’”
Initially Oleinik was supposed to fight Walt Harris at UFC Ottawa, but when the UFC asked him to step into the main event spot against Overeem there was no hesitation for the No. 10 ranked heavyweight. He understands what a win over a guy like Overeem could do for his career and believes it is an incredible opportunity.
“Some guys have a very high ranking but they don’t have a name,” Oleinik said. “Alistair has a big name he’s a MMA legend and K1, he’s a unique fighter. He has very good experience in all disciplines and grappling too. If you fight with a legend you never lose.”
It’s going to be a clash of styles when these two meet on Saturday. Oleinik, who is famous for his submissions (45 career wins by submission) will look to execute his gameplan and do his best to dictate where the fight goes. Oleinik says this is match-up is one that all fight fans should be looking forward too.
UFC Saint Petersburg: Top 5 Finishes
UFC Saint Petersburg: Top 5 Finishes
“I think this is classic fight with striker and grappler,” Oleinik said. “This look like a classic fight because Alistair Overeem is a famous K1 fighter, he’s a famous tough guy and very good striker. He’s got a lot of knockouts. I usually try to make a submission or choke. I think this is very interesting for many fans of MMA.”
Overeem and Oleinik have 129 combined professional MMA victories between them and that experience is another reason that Oleinik believes fans should be interested in Saturday’s main event.
“We have so much experience and sometimes with that experience we can choose from 10 guys,” Oleinik said. “We have more than 100 fights and this is a very big experience and this is one more reason why this fight will be very interesting. Very big experience vs very big experience, very tough guy vs not bad grappler and I think very different.”
Oleinik is underselling his grappling and his match-up with Overeem is sure to be fireworks considering these two veterans have a combined 92 victories by stoppage.
Make sure you tune into ESPN+ on Saturday night to watch Oleinik take on the explosive Overeem.
The UFC Saint Petersburg early prelims begin at 10:15am/7:15am ETPT on ESPN2 and the main card will air live on ESPN+ at 1pm/10:15am ETPT.
Gavin Porter is a digital producer and writer for UFC.com, follow him on Twitter at @PorterUFCNews