HK 43’s Misha Cirkunov hopes a victory Friday will lead to UFC call-up

61f9e7fc98b11beda1f7427d58379565In January, Canadian Misha Cirkunov defeated Rodney Wallace with a vicious highlight reel head kick knockout at Hard Knocks 41 and subsequently won the the promotions light heavyweight championship. This Friday he looks to carry that momentum with his first title defence against Bellator veteran Shaun Asher at Hard Knocks 43. With an impressive 8-3 record, Cirkunov has been considered one of the top 205lb fighters in Canada for quite some time and the UFC has taken notice. Last month when Quinton “Rampage” Jackson was going through his legal issues with Bellator MMA and Fabio Maldonado appeared to be without an opponent – at UFC 186 in Montreal – Cirkunov was on the UFC’s radar in terms of a replacement option. “My name was thrown out there – for a last minute replacement.” Cirkunov told MMAOddsBreaker. “We tried to get [the fight against Maldonado] and kind of tried to do everything we could do. I was ready to step in like three, four days right before the fight. I’m always training, always in shape and ready to fight. I just need that opportunity and I’m all over it. He ended up losing that spot to former hockey enforcer Steve Bosse – and Rampage would end up competing against Maldonado anyways – but that hasn’t  stalled the 28-year old’s aspirations of competing in the UFC. The Toronto native looks for his fourth straight win and aims for his fourth consecutive finish. While Asher isn’t a marquee name like his last opponent Wallace, Cirkunov believes his 35-year foe possess a good challenge in this championship matchup. “I’m always now chasing that bigger name, but at the same time it’s hard to get [big name opponents]. At the end of the day I’d love to pick and choose who I would want to fight, somebody with a big name, so I can elevate my career. But whenever that opportunity comes in, fighting somebody like Shaun Asher, 9-1, that’s a very good record, it’s a challenge. I look at him as a very confident fighter who wants to beat me up. I’m pretty sure; the UFC going to be paying attention to the fight. If somebody [put together] this fight on the UFC prelims, I’m sure a lot of people would tune in.” Asher (9-1-1) has primarily fought for the Kentucky based “Turf Wars” promotion, but also fought at Bellator 78 in 2012, losing by submission to Jason Butcher. Stylistically, fans are in for an exciting tilt as both combatants aren’t afraid to engage in a standup affair. Asher has won five of his nine career wins by knockout and while on paper that should translate into a standup war, Cirkunov is prepared for anything. “Asher as you can see, he’s a very strong guy. He has his wrestling and he’s always looking to punch you hard, take you down [and implement his] ground and pound. We might think that it’s going to be a stand-up match after some exchanges but who knows? I’m ready to wrestle, grapple, box and kick-box. I’m planning on throwing in a little bit of everything. I’m not going to be one dimensional at all. I’m going to see what his strength and weaknesses are and we’re going to go from there. I’m definitely going to be looking to finish the fight and look to put on a show.” With this being a five round championship match, one guarantee by the Hard Knocks light heavyweight champion is that this match-up won’t go the distance. “I really don’t think it’s going to go all five rounds. I think it’s going to be some sort of stoppage, so either knockout or submission. I think it’s going to be an exciting fight to watch, because there is going to be a finish. Don’t miss that fight, it’s going to be amazing for sure.” With the UFC’s light heavyweight division in dire need of some new blood, the timing of this championship matchup couldn’t be better. Should the Xtreme Couture product Cirkunov emerge victorious Friday night in Calgary, he believes that will be enough to punch his ticket to the UFC. “I really think [if I win, the UFC will sign me] like 100 percent. I’ve been looking at some of the latest [Canadian MMA] rankings. Ryan Jimmo he was #1 and they put me as #2 right underneath him.  I’m pretty sure nobody is going to be questioning [the UFC’s decision if they signed me] If I’m submitting people and knocking them out, have a lot of finishes in the first round as well. Every time I fight, people can see I’m swinging; I’m trying to hurt the guy and not trying to play with points. I’m pretty sure in UFC’s [light heavyweight division] I’d be a good addition. Hopefully everything the way I plan and that’s exactly what’s going to happen after this fight.” Despite some of the recent criticisms towards the UFC, in particular their new sponsorship deal with Reebok, Cirkunov doesn’t lose any enthusiasm when mentioning his dreams of competing in the UFC. “I always see the positive out of it. Don’t get me wrong, obviously the money I hope would be definitely higher. They would treat the fighters with more respect. At the end of the day, however the organization works I guess it’s part of the deal, that’s how it is. Obviously everyone would want more, but at the end of the day it’s not up to us. I can’t really get mad at things we can’t control. UFC is “Triple A league”. Bellator, obviously  has amazing fighters and is a huge organization as wel, but it’ss a “Double A” [organization]. UFC you have the elite of the elite. The goal is the UFC, they’re most recognizable organization.” You can follow Misha on Twitter @Misha_Cirkunov and you can listen to the full interview on Episode 105 of The Parting Shot Podcast

Written by James Lynch

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