BOISE, Idaho – It’s not every day that a fighter gets to debut in the UFC as a headliner. In the heavyweight division specifically, the last time that happened was in 2011, when Alistair Overeem debuted against Brock Lesnar.
That is not lost on the promotional newcomer, who appreciates the “trust” being placed on him.
“I feel really special,” Ivanov told MMAjunkie ahead of the FS1-televised encounter, which takes place at CenturyLink Arena in Boise. “I’m very happy to be the main event. I’ll fight with the former UFC champion, and I’m proud to fight against Junior.”
Ivanov (16-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC) might not be the most familiar name to the average MMA fan – Dos Santos (18-5 MMA, 12-4 UFC) himself admitted to not knowing who he was when the matchup was immediately offered. But that doesn’t mean he’s unqualified for the gig; he is, after all, bringing in a five-fight winning streak, including a WSOF title win and three subsequent defenses.
Out of those five bouts, three were main events, with the other two serving as co-headliners. Having been in spotlight positions for so long, Ivanov says, he had a feeling the UFC time would come. And, now that it’s here, Ivanov is not overwhelmed by it.
“No, I’m not worried (about octagon jitters),” Ivanov said. “This is my job, and I’m happy to fight against (Dos Santos).”
It’s not like it’s a trend for fighters to turn down UFC calls, but Ivanov did pick an interesting time to answer his. After all, after WSOF re-branded itself into the Professional Fighter’s League, he could have opted to stay in their regular season and compete for a not-so-shabby $1 million prize that will be given to the winner of each division.
Walking away from a possible hefty prize, he acknowledges, wasn’t easy, but ultimately the UFC was able to offer him a good deal. Not to mention that, as alluring as that figure may be, there are some particular concerns that come with a tournament-type competition.
“Sometimes, those tournaments are dangerous because, if you’re injured, you’re out,” Ivanov said. “This is one of the reasons.”
There could have been smoother welcomes into the UFC than the No. 10 fighter in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA heavyweight rankings. But Ivanov, who’s ranked No. 13, welcomes the opportunity. After all, he reasons, a win over the dangerous ex-champ could catapult him right into the division’s top five.
Ivanov knows that won’t necessarily be an easy task against someone who, despite a bit of a layoff due to issues with USADA, he still sees as a strong fighter and a great athlete. But though he expects a good clash for both men, the Bulgarian believes he’s got the skills to succeed in what he sees as a key area in the fight.
“I think the fight will be going to the clinch, and my clinch, I think, it’s better than this,” Ivanov said.
Ivanov doesn’t seem particularly upset about the fact that, despite his achievements, his name is not yet that recognized by a lot of people. On Saturday, he says, they will be able to see him. All he needs to do is follow a simple plan to show his style and his strengths.
Oh, and to do this other small thing.
“I have to crush him, and that’s it,” Ivanov said.
To hear more from Ivanov, check out the video above.
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Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie
Read the full article here: How will UFC Boise's Blagoy Ivanov make his name off Junior Dos Santos? 'I have to crush him'