European Throwdown: Reljic Drops to 185

By Tim Leidecker Aug 20, 2008
Undefeated Croatian prospect Goran Reljic (Pictures), who made a successful UFC debut with a second round TKO over American Top Team’s Wilson Gouveia (Pictures) at UFC 84 “Ill Will” in May, has decided that he will compete in the middleweight division in the future, despite getting off to a flying start in the Octagon.

Reljic meets Brazilian Thales Leites (Pictures) (13-1) at UFC 90 “Silva vs. Cote” on Oct. 25 at the Allstate Arena in Chicago.

The move down to 185 pounds has puzzled fans and experts alike as the 24-year-old -- who splits training between Roger Gracie (Pictures)’s academy in London and Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic (Pictures)’s gym in Zagreb -- looked well-sized at light heavyweight peppering Gouveia, an experienced striker, with devastating punches and kicks.

It appears that Reljic is not content with “just” winning and finishing his fights early -- he has his sights set on becoming a true force to reckon with in the middleweight division.

“I walk around at 230 pounds, so when I make the drop down to middleweight, I will physically be the biggest fighter in the whole division for sure,” Reljic told

All 205-pounders currently under contract with Zuffa will only get a breather though, as the move only appears to be a temporary one.

“I do plan to get back to 205 [pounds] eventually, don’t worry,” Reljic added.

Sengoku Georgians compete at Olympics

Two months ago, World Victory Road’s Sengoku promotion announced the signing of the Georgian wrestling quartet of Eldari Kurtanidze (Pictures), Georgi Gogchelidze, Ramaz Nozadze and Zurab Zviadauri.

Currently in Beijing for the 2008 Olympic Games, Nozadze already started his campaign for gold last Thursday, but came up short against Czech Republic's Marek Svec in the quarterfinals.

Two-time freestyle world champion Gogchelidze and 2004 Olympic Greco-Roman silver medalist Nozadze will both see action this week.

The Caucasus natives compete in the 96kg weight class -- both considered pre-tournament favorites by the bookmakers -- making them light heavyweight fighters by MMA standards.

Georgian fighters, especially wrestlers, have held a special appeal in Japan since the mid-nineties, when the two brother pairs Ameran and Tariel Bitsadze and Koba and Zaza Tkeshelashvili made a name for themselves in the now-defunct Rings organization.

With the Japanese tradition of inviting Olympic medalists to compete in MMA on New Year’s Eve, fans following the Games should pay special attention to the action going on in the wrestling and judo tournaments. FEG and WVR executives are already salivating over the thought of having Japanese judoka Satoshi Ishii or huge French teenager Teddy Riner fight in one of their rings.

Hardy: ‘Next Bisping’ doesn’t buy into hype

Even though top UK welterweight prospect Dan Hardy (Pictures) is being billed as “the next Michael Bisping (Pictures)” by the UFC’s marketing machine, the 26-year-old Team Rough House fighter is taking his promotional debut fight against seasoned Japanese veteran Akihiro Gono (Pictures) at UFC 89 very seriously.

Hardy is currently in the U.S. splitting time between the Xtreme Couture and 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu camps in order to be in top shape for his battle with the Tokyo fighter in Birmingham, England.

“The Outlaw” will return to UK soil at the end of the month and will spend the remaining six weeks until Oct. 18 training with his Rough House teammates Paul Daley (Pictures), Lee Livingstone (Pictures) and Andre Winner (Pictures). Hardy’s management is even contemplating bringing in some additional sparring partners from around Europe to leave nothing to chance.

Diabate starts strong in ShoXC

French Muay Thai stylist Cyrille “The Snake” Diabate waged a successful comeback against American submission specialist Jaime Fletcher (Pictures) last Friday during the latest installment of ShoXC “Elite Challenger Series” on Showtime. Diabate took the bout via a unanimous decision.

Diabate, 35, broke his ankle in training for a fight against Travis Wiuff (Pictures) last December and after six months of rehab and two months of hard training, showed that he is now again nearing top form.

“I wasn't totally satisfied with my performance,” Diabate told “My moves didn't come naturally enough. Nothing was flowing like usual. I had a lot of opportunities where I could have ended the fight, but because of hesitating, the fight went the distance even if I dominated.”

Still, Diabate felt there was something to be learned.

“This fight was perfect to know where I’m at right now and to know what's working for me,” he said. “I want to be 100 percent for my next fight and if I’m at my top level I’m confident that I can take out all the best light heavyweights Elite XC dishes out for me. Regardless whether I get to fight [Rafael] Feijao [Cavalcante] next or anybody else, I want the belt and I’m very determined on having it.”

The big striker from La Celle-Saint-Clou made a name for himself during his 2005-2006 stint in Japan. Of his five bouts in Japan, the Snake lost only one -- a first-round technical knockout at the hands of Pride middleweight grand prix winner Mauricio Rua (Pictures) in September 2006.

Polish Precis: KSW, Bedorf, Cage Rage, and Rak

• Top Polish promotion KSW has announced the majority of its roster for KSW “Extra” on Sept. 13, as Przemyslaw Zbiciak, Artur Sowinski, Jedrzej Kubski and Maciej Gorski will do battle in a one-night, four-man lightweight tournament.

In a superfight, experienced Polish jiu-jitsu player Krzysztof Kulak will take on talented German grappler Florian Müller. Fellow KSW team members Antoni Chmielewski, Lukasz Jurkowski, Daniel Dowda and Jan Blachowicz are also scheduled to appear on the card.

• Undefeated rapper-turned-fighter Popek Rak (Pictures) will make his next appearance inside the cage at FX3 Fight Night 9 "The Reckoning" in Reading, England. Rak will take on Dutch kickboxer Sander Duyvis, who trains at Mike’s Gym -- the same facility Dream star Melvin Manhoef (Pictures) hails from. Although Duyvis is just 1-1 in MMA, he is a serious step up in competition for Rak.

• Heavyweight Piotr Kusmierz (Pictures) will fight in the main event of Cage Rage 28 on Sept. 20 at The Troxy in London. “The Doctor” will face none other than James Thompson (Pictures), who has lost his last three fights on British soil. A recent foil to Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson on CBS, Thompson will try to reverse his fortunes against the Polish rookie. At 6-foot-2 and a solid 250 pounds, the Team Bloodline fighter will be no pushover though.

• Three-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu European champion Karol Bedorf is planning to dedicate himself to fighting in MMA full time. The 25-year-old heavyweight made his debut last November, getting to the semifinals of the KSW 8 heavyweight tournament before losing to vastly experienced Ukrainian and eventual winner Alexey Oleinik (Pictures) in only his second MMA bout.

On Sept. 21, Bedorf will compete in a one-night, eight-man, open-weight tournament, which will also feature former WKA kickboxing world champion Dirk Thielecke, German Top Team heavyweight Thorsten Kronz and powerful judoka Lars Weber.

Regardless of the outcome, the Szczecin Top Team member is already booked to fight in a local show in mid-October in his native Poland. If Bedorf, an ADCC qualifier in 2007, continues to improve his striking and dedicates himself to MMA full time, he will be a force to reckon with in the next two years.

Superior Challenge moved, Aziz vs. Fernandez announced

Everyone’s attention will be on Birmingham, England on Oct. 18, so the men behind top-notch Swedish promotion Superior Challenge have moved their event series to the following weekend.

Superior Challenge’s first show took place on April 5 and earned rave reviews from the Scandinavian fight scene. UFC fighter David Bielkheden (Pictures) even went as far as calling it the “best event to ever take place in Sweden.”

While the inaugural event had a total of ten fights, including a ‘Sweden versus England’ mini-series, promoter Manos Terzitane is looking to up the ante with a strong card of up to sixteen bouts.

In the featherweight division, undefeated Swedish prospect Sami Aziz will look to keep his unbeaten record intact as he takes on seasoned French veteran Emanuel Fernandez. Aziz beat Fernandez’ younger brother Frederic at the first show, so taking on “Pythagoras” seems the next logical step.

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