MMAViking had a long chat with the UFC lightweight Anton Kuivanen who will make his Octagon debut on the next week as he fights American Justin Salas on the 15th of Feb at the UFC on Fuel TV show in Omaha, Nebraska. In this second part of the interview we focus on Kuivanen’s upcoming fight. If you missed the first part, you can find it here.
MMAViking: The offer from the UFC came in approximately only six weeks before this first fight on the UFC On Fuel show. How do you feel about the short notice?
Anton: I think the starting point for the preparation for this fight was quite good. After the Cage 16 fight against Meller I took couple weeks off and healed the little injuries that I had but then quickly got back to training. Then I got the invitation to train at the American Top Team in Florida so I travelled there before Christmas and had a good training period of five weeks. We had a plan to focus on improving my physical attributes and learn new skills during the beginning of the year but this deal obviously changed those plans. But yeah overall I think six weeks is enough for me to get ready for this fight. I’m in good shape and healthy.
MMAViking: You said that you had great training sessions at the ATT. Do you think that you will benefit from that in this fight?
Anton: Yes I believe so. First of all Salas is a very good wrestler so it was important that I got more experience from dealing with this American style of wrestling. Their “leg wrestling” is a bit different from the freestyle wrestling that we have here. I trained a lot of wrestling when I was in Florida. Masvidal had a fight coming up with Melendez, who is a great wrestler too, so big portion of Masvidal’s training sessions where focused on wrestling.
MMAViking: Tell us a little bit what exactly happens during these six weeks of preparation?
Anton: Well right from the beginning all this supportive training was reduced to minimum. Now we focus completely on training that is directly related to fighting: wrestling, ground game, striking and boxing. I train these areas one at the time and then of course mix them together when sparring MMA. I train two times a day and six days a week.
MMAViking: When are you travelling to the US? Any special tricks for the weight cut or the time difference?
Anton: We’re going there four days before the fight. Of course we have to consider the time difference and the long flight but I think it’s not going to be a problem. We will plan the weight cut in detailed manner before we leave Finland. I don’t think the time difference will affect much. It’s easier to get use to it when you go from Finland to US than it is the other way around.
MMAViking: Where and with who are you getting ready for this fight?
Anton: I’m training here at the GB Gym (Helsinki, Finland). Mostly with GB gyms active fighters but also with some other guys from the Helsinki area. Kai Puolakka (7-2 welterweight) has been my primary training partner. JP Vainikainen and Joni Salovaara were here on Saturday for a sparring session.
MMAViking: What are your thoughts on the opponent Justin Salas?
Anton: Overall he looks to be a pretty good allround fighter. It’s hard to find any big weaknesses in him. His base is in his good wrestling and he has a good boxing too. Light on his feet and controls the distance well. Mixes strikes with takedowns and goes for the single legs and doubles. In his latest fights he has been able to dictate the pace and take the fights to his comfort zone. He looks to have pretty good stamina but doesn’t seem to pack very much power in his strikes or have a wide variety of submissions.
MMAViking: How are you going to approach this fight?
Anton: I’m going to be aggressive on the feet without getting too excited. I need to stay sharp in the clinch and keep my hips strong if he shoots for takedowns.
MMAViking: Do you think that you can end this fight on the ground too?
Anton: Yes I think so, both from the bottom and from the top. I think my ground game is better than his. What I’ve seen his grappling on the ground is more defense oriented and he tries more to control than to get a submission.
MMAViking: You are an experienced fighter already but are you nervous about the debut in the UFC?
Anton: Of course there is some extra tension in this fight. Now we finally get to fight at the UFC level and there are a lot of expectations from the Finnish fans and from the people around me. It will be also interesting to fight in a different environment. For the last few years I have fought in front of a home crowd at Cage events but now I have to fight on a foreign ground where the crowd might be booing me. But I’m going to use this excitement as fuel and perform at my best.
Again, ff you missed the first part, you can find it here. In the third and last part of this interview Anton Kuivanen will kindly answer the questions from his fans. Stay tuned for more!
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