Prospect Spotlight: Misha Cirkunov

61f9e7fc98b11beda1f7427d58379565Name: Misha Cirkunov Age: 27 Height: 6’3 Weight Class: Light Heavyweight (Current Hard Knocks Light Heavyweight Champion) Record: 8-2 (3 KO’s, 3 Sub., 2 Dec.) Born: Riga, Latvia Fighting Out Of: Toronto, Ontario (Xtreme Couture) Notable Wins: Rodney Wallace, Martin Desilets Influences: Georges St-Pierre, Marcelo Garcia Taking a glance at Misha Cirkunov’s impressive 8-2 record, it’s easy to see why the outspoken Canadian wants his next fight to be in the UFC. For the 27-year old, competing in the world’s biggest mixed martial arts promotion would be a culmination of years spent developing his martial arts craft. Sports have always been a huge influence in the Cirkunov’s life and it was an outlet that allowed him to find common ground with his peers growing up. When he was just 13 years old, the Latvian born fighter moved to Canada and the transition wasn’t easy. “When I came to Canada I was a little depressed. I didn’t have too many friends, I couldn’t speak the language.” Cirkunov told MMAOddsBreaker “I kind of followed what I liked, which is sports.” Despite not knowing a word of English, Cirkunov broke the barrier participating in judo, a sport which he has learned previously during his youth in Latvia. From judo, he transitioned to wrestling and found success in that sport during his teenage years winning a number of tournaments. However after high school – like many high level athletes – he needed a way to keep his competitive juices flowing. It wasn’t until an extended trip to the United States, that he discovered MMA. “I moved to Las Vegas and I had a great opportunity to train at Cobra Kai [which] at the time, the head coach was Marc Laimon. I wasn’t too curious about MMA because my ground [game] was really poor. What really opened up my eyes at the time was when I was rolling with guys like Mayhem Miller – Mark Coleman and Kevin Randleman. I knew that grappling is something I needed to learn and I just knew that someday I’d be a black belt in this sport. “ With his valuable experience in Vegas, Cirkunov competed in his first professional MMA bout  in 2010 against Jeff Doyle (at Ringside MMA 5 in Quebec). Even though he won the fight in 40 seconds by knockout, Cirkunov recalls his high level of anxiety heading into his debut. “It’s one thing to do a grappling, wrestling or judo competition and obviously you’re going to have nerves. When it comes to [MMA], I would say it’s that times ten, because now you can get knocked out, submitted – anything can happen to you. The transition [from judo to MMA] was actually very nerve-racking because at the time [because I had] zero boxing experience. I knew I could take pretty much anybody down and once it hits the ground I’m in my comfort zone. I was still a little bit nervous standing out. I knew [then] I have a lot to learn.” From a successful debut, Cirkunov would go on an impressive run over the next four years that only saw him lose twice through ten professional fights. Arguably his biggest challenge was finding opponents that were willing to fight him. Living in Ontario, a place where local MMA events are somewhat scarce, taking fights usually meant going out of province. Lack of opposition has been a major determinant to the Toronto native, who’s only competed three times in the last four years. “It’s something [where] you cannot force someone to fight you, but at the same time you need someone to fight you to have a better record. It was kind of difficult getting opponents and finding out which organization you’re going to fight for.” Last month however, Cirkunov and his management team (RISE Management) landed a high profile fight against UFC veteran Rodney Wallace at Hard Knocks 41 in Calgary. Not only was it the biggest test of his career, but the winner of the match up would take home the Alberta based promotions’ light heavyweight title. Even with an extended layoff Cirkunov made short work of his American foe, finishing him via head kick in the first round. “Going into a fight – I was very calm; I had an amazing training camp. I train with some of Canadas best fighters including Elias Theodorou, Sergej Juskevic (current Hard Knocks welterweight champion); I was training with many top guys. I knew he was a very durable opponent; he’s hard to knock out. He went to decisions against guys like Phil Davis and Brian Stann. The game plan was to put the pressure on in the third round. When I came out and started fighting, I felt that he’s not on my level and I went right through him.” With that victory, Cirkunov is now on a three fight win streak and in most cases, earning a nod over a UFC veteran is usually followed by a call-up from the worlds biggest MMA promotion. While Cirkunov did mention he’d be open to signing with the Titan Fighting Championships (which does have an out clause to the UFC) , the Xtreme Couture member feels he belongs in the UFC. “[My manager] Pat Wilson has been helping me out contacting the UFC and Joe Silva. I’ve been a getting a bunch of different offers from certain organizations but those offers were very one sided. I’m not excited to sign a deal with a very one sided organization unless it’s the UFC. That’s the only promotion that I would sign kind of my life away to because it’s a goal. I mean you have a good skilled guy in a [UFC] division where you need more 205ers. I see myself fitting perfectly in there. I think I need to work on my PR more. I don’t talk, I don’t do too much social media I guess that’s my huge drawback, it’s just that I like to do that in the cage. All I care about is my opponent.” While he likes to do his talking in the cage, Cirkonov wasn’t shy about how he feels he matches up against some of the UFC’s light heavyweight roster. “My honest opinion – I might sound crazy right now, but I’ll fight any of [the UFC’s light heavyweights]. Worried? I’ve been doing this my whole life, they’re human and they have two arms and two legs. I’m not overconfident I’d obviously be fighting those kind of guys I’d be very careful, using all my tricks. I can’t wait to show those tricks to the world. Show that I can go decisions with these guys or go on the ground, stand and bang; wherever the fight goes I’ll be ready.” Despite the UFC’s recent reluctance towards Canada over the last few years, there is still potential for Canadian event including Cirkunov’s current residence in Toronto. Regardless of how that situation plays out, Cirkunov feels he’s in a good situation right now. “People want to see somebody go in there, fight, throw bombs, and look to finish the guy. That’s what I’m looking to do. In the last two years I’ve only had three fights, but I’m always ending them in the first round but I can go for three rounds or five rounds. I’m a martial artist; I’m not just a fighter. Everything is set, I just can’t wait to get into the UFC and close the cage behind me. When I was younger I always wanted to go to the Olympics but now for me I want to be a UFC fighter and I know for sure I belong there but it’s just a matter of time when I will be there.”

Written by James Lynch

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