Niko Samsonidze has made his Oktagon debut. Roman Paulus was his first opponent after a more than two-year injury layoff that left him with a 9-2 record. The organization presented him as a great promise, which he proved with his performance. In an interview with Ruik, he talked about the injury, his ambitions and his opponent.
You last fought more than two years ago. That’s when you broke your leg badly in a fight. How long was your recovery? How serious was the injury? Could it have put your career in jeopardy?
The recovery took a really long time, the leg didn’t want to heal. It took a year and a half. Last October the doctors removed the metal from my leg and about two months later I started training.
Normally it’s not an overly complicated injury, it just takes time to recover. But my leg didn’t heal, it took longer than expected. The doctors even talked about another possible operation. At that point, my MMA career was in jeopardy.
So the injury wasn’t easy for me. At times I didn’t feel too good about my future. But I still hoped for good news.
How did you get into the Oktagon? And what do you think of the organization?
My manager and coach Amir arranged for me to fight here. I’ve been to a few Oktagon tournaments in the past as a coach and have always been impressed with the show the organization can deliver and the amazing crowd.
How did you feel about Oktagon’s expansion into Germany? Were you familiar with Oktagon before?
I was really happy when Oktagon came to the German market. It gave our sport in Germany an extra boost. I didn’t follow so much the Oktagon Challenge, for example, which the organization launched the expansion, but I visited all the tournaments on German soil and really enjoyed it.
But now on to the wrestling. Your opponent was Roman Paulus, a great Slovakian prospect. What did you think of him before the fight? Did you see him as an opponent to “unwind” after his injury, or more as a big test?
I felt that Roman would not be an easy opponent. He’s got a good record and a lot of cage experience. I have a lot of respect for him, he’s still young and has a great future.
How did you feel in the fight? Was there any fear in your mind that you might hurt your leg again or were you able to deal with such thoughts?
I felt great, confident. I was confident in my leg and I’m happy that I overcame the trauma. I felt totally comfortable with all my kicks.
Paulus may have lost his last fight, but otherwise he was able to turn around fights in previous fights where he may not have started so well. Was that something you were looking out for?
I knew he was always improving as the fight went on, but I felt good, I was in total control of everything that was going on in the fight. I felt in very good shape and most importantly I was in great shape.
As you mentioned, you gave a dominant performance. Did the match go exactly as planned or did you have a different scenario?
I planned to be in the standup with him for a while and then take him to the ground, but he had really good defense against takedowns and I felt comfortable in the standup, I enjoyed it, so we adapted the plan and tactics to that throughout.
How do you feel about the fight in retrospect? Are you happy with your performance?
Conditionally I felt absolutely fantastic. I’m happy that I made such a comeback. I really enjoyed the match. Of course, there are still things I can improve and that’s why I will never be completely satisfied. There is always a lot to learn.
What did you think of the atmosphere at the tournament? How did you enjoy the whole gala?
I loved it. It was exciting and great to be able to wrestle in front of such a big crowd at such a show.
The Oktagon had already promoted you as a big prospect before the tournament. I even compared you to Elk Keith in terms of potential. What are your ambitions? Do you want to go for the title despite Keita?
I’m extremely grateful for the trust that the Oktagon puts in me. There’s still a lot to come. I have a lot of respect for Keita for what he’s done. I’ve only just made my debut, but I’m ready to go match by match and fight my way to the top.
What do you think of your competitors at featherweight? Did you see Tichota’s fight with Keita? How did you like it? What about thechampion Mate Sanikidze?
I like my division a lot, there are a lot of interesting fights and match-ups both in general and for me. I saw the main event of course, Keita put on a clinically accurate performance, but Tichota impressed me with his toughness and stamina.
As for Sanikidze, he’s a really great guy. He’s a good Georgian friend of mine.
You’ve fought at lightweight in the past. Do you plan to move between divisions, or do you want to focus strictly on featherweight?
I’m tall enough for featherweight, so I might as well be a lightweight. But right now I feel comfortable just at featherweight, I don’t have to undergo any heavy drops. So currently I want to stay at featherweight and see what the future brings.
Is there anything you would like to say to the fans in the end?
I would like to thank everyone for their support. I really appreciate it. You guys are amazing. It was my debut after a two-year break, you can expect a lot more from me. I’m always ready to put on the best show.
Support us and show everyone around you what our sport is all about. #OneLove
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