You could call it a comeback. It has been a long while since the fans last saw Marcus Vänttinen (24-6) in a cage, but the wait is over soon. “The Caveman” from HardKnocks Helsinki will return to action in the main event in front of his home crowd at the upcoming M-1 Challenge 82 on August 5th. Looking for his 25th professional win, Vänttinen has signed to fight Russian prospect Mikhail Ragozin (8-2).
Vänttinen last fought at Cage 29 in February 2015, and a TKO loss to German prospect Jarjis Danho ended his brief experiment as a heavyweight. After that devastating setback Vänttinen admitted to having motivational issues and took some time off. After healing up his body and mind Caveman has turned down a lot of fight offers, but he has been training and coaching regularly with the HardKnocks team. “I’ve been training the whole time, and now I have a feeling that it would be nice to fight again. There have been offers on the table all the time, this one made the difference, because I like M-1 as an organization. I’ve had some good fights with them and I have great memories from those trips,” Vänttinen says.
The prolonged break from fighting has made a difference, Helsinki-based light heavyweight believes. Physically Vänttinen is still an impressive figure, mentally he wants to be stronger than ever. Now he can enter the arena to perform just for himself, without any added pressure or distractions. “It did good to take some distance and do some totally different things. I haven’t had any pressure, and training feels great again.”
“Earlier I built a lot of pressure for myself, there was talk of the UFC and all that stuff, I didn’t handle it well.”
Early in his pro career Vänttinen fought four times under the M-1 Challenge banner. Now he signed for a single fight and vows not to look past that, though he knows the door is open for a longer commitment. His biggest opponent is not Mikhail Ragozin, but himself. “If fighting doesn’t feel good, that’s the end of it, but if it still feels like the greatest thing in the world, I’ll probably keep going,” Vänttinen ponders.
Ragozin is not a man to take lightly, he has won eight of his ten pro fights – and seven of those inside the distance. Vänttinen is not underestimating his opponent, but Caveman points out that the most important thing this time is his own level of performance.
With well over a decade of professional career behind him, it is peculiar that Vänttinen only turns 30 during the last weeks of training camp. The youthful veteran is not concerned about the effects of his long hiatus. “I’m not worrying about ring rust at all. I have really good flow at training right now. I trust that I can keep it going on the fight night.”