x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

MMA: Maro Perak unfazed by late change in Abu Dhabi Warriors opponent

The Croatian will face Bellator light heavyweight tournament finalist Travis Wiuff in the main event of the fight card, after his previous opponent pulled out through injury.

Travis Wiuff and Maro Perak face off ahead of their bout at the Abu Dhabi Warriors MMA card.
Travis Wiuff and Maro Perak face off ahead of their bout at the Abu Dhabi Warriors MMA card.

The fighter handed the responsibility of headlining the first mixed martial arts card from UAE Jiu Jitsu says a late change in opponent has not derailed his preparations for Friday's fight.

Originally, Maro Perak was lined up to to face the former K1 Grand Prix winner Konstantin Gluhov in the main event of the Abu Dhabi Warriors card, but just two weeks before the show Gluhov was forced to beg off through injury.

The organisers drafted in former UFC fighter Travis Wiuff as an opponent for Perak in the main event, and while the 30-year-old Croatian admits the switch in opponents has required a change in direction for his training, he remains confident he can the experienced former Bellator contender.

"Usually I dedicate the most of time of my training camp to improving my own skills, in order to be well rounded," he said. "The other part is adjusting to the style of my opponent. Konstantin is a kickboxer, while Travis is mainly a wrestler.

"But I'm ready to fight any opponent they put in front of me."

A late switch in opponents, especially main events, often can result in a mismatch as promoters scramble to fill a hole in the card. But Wiuff has an impressive CV.

The 34-year-old American reached the final of Bellator's light-heavyweight championship tournament this summer. He suffered a first-round knockout at the hands of Attila Veigh, but that is the only defeat in his past eight fights - a run which include three first-round stoppages of his own.

With a 68-1-15 record, and an equal balance between KOs and submissions, the Minnesota native is a challenging opponent for any fighter to face.

"I think we've dealt with it well," said Dean Parr, spokesman for the Abu Dhabi Warriors Fighting Championships. "Travis is a fantastic replacement. He's experienced, exciting and has some massive wins.

"This will be a great fight, maybe even better than the original main event, stylistically."

Unlike the Dubai and Abu Dhabi Fighting Championships, the Warriors fight card contains no local or Arab fighters, drawing its initial roster primarily from the US, Brazil and eastern Europe - the hotbeds of western mixed martial arts talent.

Organisers said they will find a place for Middle East fighters on future cards, with plans for future events in 2013, but their focus is getting through the first show.

Perak, making his debut in the Middle East, looks to follow in the footsteps of compatriot Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic, the Croatian kickboxer and former police officer who became one of his country's most popular sportsmen, eventually being elected to parliament.

"Cro Cop definitely had a great influence on the growth of MMA in Croatia with his appearances in Pride and him winning the 2006 Open Weight Grand Prix," Perak said.

"Today, the sport has developed and we have a lot of great fighters that fought in the biggest organisations, that can be role models and a great influence to young people to start training or watching."

The event will be competing for attention in a busy weekend of sport in the city, with Pro League matches and the shadow of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix looming over the card.

Parr is confident the event, which will be televised in the UAE and streamed live online for viewers around the world, will be able to hold its own.

"If anything it could be positive," he said of the sharing the weekend with Formula One. "By the time our event starts, the qualifying session will have finished, so people may come to both.

"The fight card is fantastic, and will deliver to the hard-core fans watching in Abu Dhabi and around the world."

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