In five weeks, Hex featherweight champion Kaan Ofli will step into the cage in the co-main event of Hex 27 against Perth’s Abdalla Biayda, as he looks for his first title defence. Ofli captured the title in February, when he submitted Jarret Wilbraham in the third round of the main event at Hex 25.
Now coming into a fight as a champion rather than a challenger, Ofli says his mindset hasn’t changed since capturing his title.
‘It doesn’t really feel any different. Even when I didn’t have a belt, I still felt like I was a champion. If I fought anyone, I felt like I had something to lose…the belts don’t mean anything to me, I’m a warrior and I’m going in there to win no matter the circumstances.’
In the midst of a championship camp, leading into a fight with possible UFC implications, Ofli has used this mentality to keep him pushing towards the fight.
‘Whenever I push myself to my limit in training I just try to think about the fight. I really just zone in and I manifest, and I visualise winning. Winning no matter what. I try, especially in my last rounds, I try to push…don’t leave anything in the gas tank…sometimes I like to walk around, stick my arms up in the air and feel like the champ.’ Said Ofli.
For his pre-camp heading into this fight, Ofli had a four-week training stint in Bali, training at Bali MMA and SOMA fight club, getting a chance to enjoy some warmer weather before coming home to Melbourne to start camp.
‘I love Bali, I love the tropical weather. Getting away is always nice for a little refresh, especially because its winter over here. I’m definitely a summer boy compared to winter….it was good to get some weight down and have a little getaway before we got into camp.’ Ofli said.
Hex 27 is set to take place on August 18th, a date on the mind of many fighters at Absolute MMA, with the gym having more than five fighters appearing on the card. Having so many fighters in the gym gearing up to fight on the same card has created at atmosphere of brotherhood and intensity, Ofli said.
‘I like the camaraderie. Everyone pushing or pushing each other. Everyone’s got tabs on each other too, no one’s letting each other slack or anything like that. The relationships grow in camps like this, when its just one or two people, sometimes you got more external people around helping you. The boys are always around no matter who’s fighting, but the fact that we’re all kind of on, it’s probably the best when it’s like this.’
One of these fighters, Raja Shippen, was meant to fight for the Hex featherweight title at Hex 25, however could not make it to the cage due to an injury, with Ofli stepping in on two weeks’ notice. Shippen will now make the walk at Hex 27, taking on Cody Haddon for the interim bantamweight title. Being able to see his teammate back in the cage is something that Ofli said he is looking forward to.
‘It’s a mutual feeling. We’re both excited for each other…Raja is a very exceptional athlete…If I win, he wins, if he wins, I win. That’s the energy with us all here.’
Although he will be looking to support his teammates, Ofli’s focus remains on defending his title, and he is diligent to not get wrapped up in his teammate’s fights, no matter the outcome.
‘I tune in a little bit, I kind of get a little but of nerves and excitement when I see them warming up or when they’re about to walk out…but I’ve got a job to do. Especially if my fight is not too long after I’ll just stay in the back and ill try to block it out. I try not to get effected if they come back with a win or a loss. I don’t want that to phase me. I know I’ve got a task at hand and we can talk about it all after its said and done.’ Said Ofli.
Ofli is set to head over to New Zealand for a few weeks to train with the City Kickboxing team, a resource he has used in his fight camps before.
‘I’m just going to going to go back there and train with a few guys for some game planning and to simulate the fight, we’ll see how we go.’
For a long time Ofli has been vocal about his UFC aspirations and believes a successful defense of his featherweight title puts him in the perfect position to jump to the UFC.
‘I think I’m undeniable now, and I’ve been undeniable for a few years. I believe I’m the best featherweight in Australia and it really isn’t going to be long until you guys see me in the UFC or Contender Series.’
While previously looking to get booked for UFC Sydney in September, Ofli is also keeping his eyes on the upcoming season of the Contender Series, as well as the UFC Singapore card happening in late August.
‘The Singapore card maybe, I’m thinking about some Asian guys who want to get active, who want to fight…there’s also two guys on contender series, I believe week four…they’re both featherweights and they don’t have a match up so, boys, if you need a match up. Sean Shelby if you need a match up for them boys, hit me up. I’m ready to go.’
Although keen to fight and train around the world, Ofli is looking forward to being able to fight in his hometown of Melbourne, at a near sold out Melbourne Pavilion.
‘I’m a Melbourne boy, this is very much where I’m from. I’m from the areas, I’ve lived all around suburbs, the northern suburbs, the southeast suburbs. I think even in the UFC I’ll be known as that Melbourne boy.’