One of the top UFC Lightweight contenders George "The Wizard of Oz" Sotiropoulos took time off his training to share thoughts about his upcoming bout against Kurt Pellegrino on the main card of UFC 116. The event will take place on July 3rd at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Born on July 9th, 1977 in Greelong, Australia George Sotiropoulos is currently unbeaten in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (5-0), and holds a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt under the legendary Australian Martial Artist John Will. Sotiropoulos also participated in The Ultimate Fighter 6, fighting under the coach Matt Serra (Sotiropoulos lost in the semi's to Tommy Speer).
George Sotiropoulos currently lives in Vancouver, Washington training at the local Fisticuffs Gym. His official Mixed Martial Arts record is 12 victories (7 Submissions, 1 KO and 4 decisions) and 2 losses (1 decision and 1 DQ).
Your next fight is against Kurt Pellegrino at UFC 116. What do you think about him as an opponent, and how do you prepare for this bout? Also, Pellegrino is well-known for his ground skills. Are you preparing to keep the fight on the feet or taking it to the ground?
I prepare for Kurt Pellegrino the same way I prepare for my other bouts. I work on everything, Muay Thai, Jiu-Jitsu... Of course I am studying Pellegrino and see what he does well and his weaknesses, so I could build an effective gameplan.
I am ready for everything. It doesn’t matter if the fight will be on the ground or in stand up. I am working so hard on my whole game, so I’m actually more than ready for this fight.
Where are you do you prepare for this bout, and who are your training partners?
I currently live in Vancouver, Washington so I’m doing a majority of my Muay Thai and Boxing in the Fisticuffs Gym. I also travel to California to train with Eddie Bravo, who is my Jiu-Jitsu coach since November 2008, and I’ve been working closely with him on developing my 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu skills, but I have also some local guys at the Impact Jiu-Jitsu in Beaverton, Oregon.
So I got an exceptional team that helps me to prepare for the fight. So I’ve been splitting my time between all these talented people, who are the masters of their craft. I also did my MMA sparring with Team Quest. So I am extremely satisfied with my preparations for this fight.
Did you ever consider participating in grappling tournaments, such as ADCC or the Grapplers Quest?
I actually participated in Abu Dhabi twice. I competed in 2003 (Brazil) and 2007 (New Jersey). I done a lot of competitions in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Wrestling. That’s basically how I found my career in Mixed Martial Arts. I put so much time in this… I did more than 100 bouts in Wrestling and BJJ. My record is 98 wins and 15 losses. But I’m currently interested in pursuing my career as a Mixed Martial Artist, that’s what I am training for every single day.
You are currently 5-0 in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Do you see the fight against Kurt Pellegrino as the one that will earn you a shot at the title?
I think that the fight against Pellegrino will be a step to this direction. I think that getting a title shot is a result of winning as many fights as possible. I don’t think that it will be a fight that secures me a title shot, but a fight that will remove any doubt about me being a contender.
Yes, I want to be a champion but it’s not what motivates me every day to train. I’m motivated because I love fighting. I want to get the biggest things and to fight for a long time to come.
What did it mean to you fighting Australia and getting a Fight of the Night Award for your performance against Joe Stevenson?
I was proud and happy that I was able to shine that night and that I was able to show a complete game of striking, grappling and wrestling. Obviously having the country behind me and cheering for me, being a guy that they were rooting for made me very proud.
So, the only thing left now is to fight in Greece?
I’d love to fight in Greece. I am very patriotic about my heritage. I speak, read and write Greek, and was raised as a Greek at home. Greek fans and Greeks in general are always getting behind each other, so I would love to fight in Greece, especially because that’s where the sport was originated.
Obviously, the UFC Heavyweight title fight between Shane Carwin and Brock Lesnar is headlining UFC 116. What are your predictions for this fight?
It’s hard not to ignore Carwin’s knockout power. But in this level of competition it can go either way, it could be a close match. I don’t think it’s going to be a close match because someone is going to get finished. Brock Lesnar is so powerful he could end this fight.
I think that it will end by ground and pound, or a knockout. I think that Lesnar will look to take the fight to the ground and Ground and Pound Carwin, who will look for a standing knockout. That’s my prediction for the fight.
Last question. Kurt Pellegrino's nickname is the "Batman". So if he's a Batman, then who are you?
I’ll be Iron Man (laughs).
Great, thanks you very much for the Interview George. Do you want to mention any sponsors or to thank someone?
Yes, I would like to thank:
Leonard Gabriel Fisticuffs Boxing in Vancouver, Washington
Eddie Bravo 10th Planet JJ Hollywood, California
Eric Jetton for coaching me in wrestling and my training partners at Impact JJ Beaverton, Oregon
Team Quest in Portland Oregon for the sparring.