x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Kickboxing champ moves training camp to Dubai

Gokhan Saki has moved to the UAE to train for his final heavyweight bout before moving to the light heavyweight division.

Gokhan Saki, a Turkish-Dutch kickboxing fighter, trains at HM MMA and Fitness Centre at Dubai. Jaime Puebla / The National
Gokhan Saki, a Turkish-Dutch kickboxing fighter, trains at HM MMA and Fitness Centre at Dubai. Jaime Puebla / The National

DUBAI // The top contender for the vacant Glory Heavyweight Kickboxing title is moving his training camp to Dubai.

Gokhan Saki, a Turkish-Dutch fighter with 79 professional wins under his belt, has moved to the UAE to train for his final heavyweight bout before moving to the light heavyweight division.

“I’ve had training camps in Thailand, Turkey and Holland, but here the big change is the weather,” he said. “I can get better endurance and conditioning here. Also, I have a few good friends here so it doesn’t feel like a big change, it feels like home here.”

It was those same friends who convinced Saki, 30, to come to Dubai.

“I’m not into the nightlife anymore, that part of my life is behind me,” he said.

“The toughest part of preparing for a fight is the mental training. There are no distractions for me here so I’ve found that I have better focus.”

An emotional fighter, Saki blamed his lack of focus for the poor outcome of his last fight. He received a controversial standing eight count in the first round.

“I slipped and the referee called it a standing eight count,” he said.

“It made me angry and I spent the rest of the fight just thinking about that and trying to make up for it.

“I wasn’t listening to what my corner was telling me, I lost all focus in that fight.”

Saki lost the fight by decision.

He has now moved his training to HM MMA and Fitness Centre at the Dubai Bowling Centre. Coach Tam Khan will be holding the mitts for him until Saki’s legendary striking coach, Mike Passenier, arrives on January 5.

“He is tough, I’m having trouble keeping up with his pace,” Khan said.

Saki’s next fight will be on February 15 in Denver, Colorado. It will be his 98th professional fight and he plans to wrap up his heavyweight reign in style.

“I’m coming off a loss, so I really want to show people what I can do in the ring. I want to put everything out there and win this fight, I have to win this fight.”

Saki will be going up against Egyptian-Dutch veteran Hesdy Gerges, who at 2 metres tall towers over Saki and has a 10.7 centimetre reach advantage.

With two more fights on his current contract, Saki is under a lot of pressure to win them.

“After a loss you always start double-thinking yourself. Did I train enough? Was there something I could have done better? But that’s not the case, you need to get out of that thought pattern and focus on the next fight,” he said.

Saki will train in Dubai for a month before going back to Holland for a few days and then on to Denver for three weeks of altitude training.

After his fight he will return to Dubai to train for his first light heavyweight bout.

The kickboxer is self-conscious about his age and physical conditioning, which is why he wants to move to a lighter weight class.

“I’m very small for a heavyweight, I’ve fought giants all my life,” said the 1.82m fighter.

“I’m getting old now, and I think I can do more at light heavyweight. I can take more risks in that weight class.”

malkhan@thenational.ae