This weekend, Perth’s own Stephen ‘Astroboy’ Erceg will make his UFC debut as he steps into the octagon across from the number 10 ranked flyweight David Dvorak on the prelims of UFC 289 in Vancouver, Canada.
Originally slated to fight Clayton Carpenter in July, Erceg got the call to fight in Vancouver after Carpenter pulled out due to an injury. To have finally made it to fight week is an exhilarating feeling, said Erceg.
‘It’s very exciting. It’s been a long time where I thought I was going to have a fight and then set back after set back. To finally be, what? Three days out or whatever it is, it’s a good feeling.’
Although sprung on him, Erceg has been enjoying his first fight week as a UFC fighter, however, he is determined on keeping focussed on his opponent.
‘It’s quite cool, I think. Most of it feels like a normal fight week. You go out, you’re walking around the neighbourhood, you’re sitting in your room watching TV. Whatever it is. Then there’s some things, like they’ll supply your meals, obviously there’s a lot of extra media stuff and you get to sign the posters and you see these people that you see on television that you sort of, like, look up to and all that sort of stuff. Its cool, it’s a little bit surreal, but again, its like any other day.’ Said Erceg.
Erceg secured his place in the UFC after a dominant performance in the main event of Eternal 73 and called for a match up with Clayton Carpenter in a passionate speech in the cage after the fight.
This was after an opportunity to face Carpenter on the 2022 season of Dana White’s Contender’s Series fell through due to visa issues. Not willing to let another opportunity slip through his fingers, Erceg said he knew he had to impress UFC officials at the event.
‘You work your whole life for something, and you have no guarantees, especially after the visa problems to start with, that you even will make the UFC. Like I don’t know how many years its going to take of fighting on the local circuit again until I get another opportunity. But I did know they were in the building, so I wanted to make sure the fight was everything. I put everything into it that I could…obviously they’re looking for stuff outside of that too, so I wanted to make sure the speech meant something.’
Although his debut won’t be against Carpenter, Erceg is focused on Dvorak, and knows that a fight with a top ten ranked opponent won’t be easy, however Erceg is determined on making a statement in his UFC debut.
‘The guy in front of me I always have great respect for, whether he’s a UFC fighter or not. I’m treating him like he’s out there to stop me from reaching my dreams. I’m trying to do everything in my power in training to make sure I get the nod. It just happens that now everyone’s going to be a bit better.’
‘The reason I started MMA is because I wanted to be the toughest guy in any room I walked into. I can’t have some guy thinking he’s tougher than me, and David Dvorak obviously does otherwise he wouldn’t have said yes. So I gotta go out there and prove I’m the toughest guy in the room and we’ll move onto the next guy after him.’
While that ‘next guy’ isn’t in Erceg’s mind just yet, a return to action at UFC 293 in Sydney does interest the flyweight.
‘I wanna fight in front of friends and family in Sydney, have heaps of people come over for that, hear the roar of the Australian crowd, it’d be amazing. As long as there’s no injuries and that sort of thing I’ll definitely be pushing for Sydney.’
UFC 289 broadcasts live this Sunday (AEST) from Vancouver, Canada via pay-per-view and the UFC Fight Pass.