Opperman Wants Perfection
“I want to fight. I was born to fight”
23 August 2013
Johannesburg (South Africa) - Michiel Opperman, EFC AFRICA welterweight champion, undefeated in the Hexagon and currently riding a seven fight win streak, faces former Commonwealth Muay Thai champion Dino Bagattin at EFC AFRICA 23, September 12. In this candid interview Opperman lays down just what he thinks of his opponent, and what he wants from his coming bout.
You were scheduled to face Martin van Staden at EFC AFRICA 19 but had to pull out due to a hamstring injury. How has your rehab gone?
I have the best medical team there is, being a chiropractor helped a bit as well, I know what will work and will not, I also know who to go to. So it’s gone very well.
On that occasion you and your camp were talking about wanting to stand with Martin, that you wanted to show the fans some of your Kyukoshun striking pedigree. Is that right?
Yip. I am from a striking background and would love to have a stand up war. You cannot always plan how fights go and all my recent fights ended on the ground. On that note I have fallen in love with the ground game, especially wrestling. I wrestle for two to three hours a day not because I have to but because I love it and believe that it is one of the most important parts of MMA, from wrestling you can control the whole game.
Dino is an athlete with a big striking reputation, a former Commonwealth and British Muay Thai champ. Are you feeling the same way about this bout? Are you looking to throw?
I have never seen Dino fight Muay Thai. Look at Leon [Mynhardt] and Don [Madge]. They are Muay Thai fighters and he doesn’t fight like them. I have 10 years more experience in stand-up than he does. This is not Muay Thai, this is MMA. I want to fight him, wherever.
Training at Smith’s gym Dino’s boxing has developed hugely. He uses sophisticated angles while you are a much more linear, aggressive and Karate based stand-up fighter. Will you be looking to keep him out of the centre of the Hexagon and pin him against the fence instead?
Pin him against the fence or on the ground!
You have finished all of your opponents in the Hexagon on the ground. Dino is an athlete known for his desire to stand rather than go down. Surely that’s an area you will attack, and ruthlessly?
Yes, of his entire game he lacks most on the ground. So you have to attack and exploit your opponent’s weakness. However, I also think there are big gaps in his stand up.
You and Dino have fought before. He remembers it as a bout in which he was dominating with strikes, he slipped and you capitalised. How do you remember that fight?
If you throw 1 000 000 punches and only land two, I don’t think that’s dominating, I think that’s wasting time and energy. Each kick I threw found a home. And then I took him down and landed a triangle.
How do you rate Dino as a fighter?
He is a worthy opponent. His has nice speed and foot work. I believe our approach to MMA is worlds apart and that’s going to show on the night.
Adam Speechly is a member of both your and Dino’s camp. Is there a conflict there in the lead up to this fight?
Adam is one of the best guys I know. There is no conflict of interest, he is my friend and I would never put him in such a position. Adam and I work together to better each other and develop and refine our skills.
Knowing Dino’s style and experience, how do you see this fight going?
My hand will be raised as the winner. Hopefully we can stand and trade a bit. But I have my game plan. Basically, I can’t wait to get back in the Hex.
You are currently on a seven fight win streak and holding the EFC AFRICA welterweight title, a belt that no one has successfully defended. Does your streak and the belt add extra pressure?
No, it’s not about titles, streaks or lights for me. When I started fighting we were fighting in leaky tents in squatter camps! I want to fight. I was born to fight.
Do you have any words for him?
I dare you, stand with me.
Any last words?
This fight is only a check point towards a greater goal; I have to be the best fighter, ever.
Finally, how do you find sparring with WAKO K1 world champ Dricus du Plessis? Who’s teaching who in those sessions?
Dricus is the new breed of the MMA athlete! I guarantee you he will be champion one day! But I have a bit more experience on him, for now...
EFC AFRICA 23, presented by MusclePharm, takes place at the Carnival City Big Top Arena on 12 September 2013. Tickets on sale now at www.computicket.com. Tickets for the live broadcast to Nu Metro Cinemas available soon at www.numetro.com.
Broadcast information and full fight card available at efcafrica.com