Ozcan is eager to get his ONE Super Series tenure off to a good start, and he intends to make a statement against the Thai legend in their ONE Featherweight Kickboxing World Grand Prix quarterfinal matchup on Friday, 15 October.
In this exclusive interview, the Dutch-Turkish star talks about the excitement surrounding his promotional debut, the changes he’s made since signing with ONE, how he plans to beat “Killer Kid” at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, and his goals in The Home of Martial Arts.
ONE Championship: You were originally preparing for your debut late last year, but plans changed. How does it feel to finally get your chance to compete in ONE Super Series?
Tayfun Ozcan: That was pretty harsh because I prepared very good for that fight, but it got canceled. Honestly, if you ask me now, the way I’m feeling now and the way I was feeling one year ago, maybe I was not ready, so I always think everything happens for a reason.
Of course, the fight got canceled, and it hurt me a lot, but I used that year a lot to improve – not only as a fighter, but mentally, so it was good. Now, I am 100 percent ready. A year ago, maybe I was only 80 percent ready. Now, I am prepared. Everything happens at the right time, and I think this is the right time.
ONE: How did you feel getting asked to face a huge name like Sitthichai?
TO: I have followed Sitthichai for a long time now. Many years. He fought in many tournaments in good organizations and he was on top. Then he came to Glory and he was dominant, also. At that time, I was an Enfusion Champion and I had no opponents left anymore, so in 2019, I called him out. I told him, ‘I am the man to control Sitthichai,’ and I asked Chatri [Sityodtong, ONE Chairman and CEO,] to make this fight happen.
When they called me to make the fight happen, it’s like everything fell into place. Of all the fighters that are [in ONE], I wanted to fight him the most, so now it’s going to happen and I’m really, really excited.
If you fight for 16 years, you need names that get you out of your bed. Maybe you’re a little bit scared but mostly motivated. Those are the fights that I live for. Maybe I can lose, you know? I need that edge. And that’s what I came to ONE for.
It’s not going to happen because I feel very good and very confident, but you never know, and that’s what I like. That tension. That energy. Before I walk out, I want to feel so nervous that it gives me energy. That’s the feeling I search for.
ONE: What has the reaction to the bout been like?
TO: I didn’t expect it, but wow, people have been waiting for this. They’ve really been waiting for me to fight. Because Sitthichai is also a big name, this is going to be a banger. I can’t wait!
MMA is big now, but this is striking at its finest. The whole striking world is going to watch this fight because they’re going to see someone who wants to bang — that’s me — against someone like Sitthichai, who is very technical but can also avoid the fight. People are waiting for this. They’re wanting to see how I can close the distance.
TO: Honestly, I cannot say anything about that fight because Superbon’s style is not similar to mine. It could have gone either way – it was not like Superbon won very big. It’s always that way with Thai fighters, so I can’t take anything out of that fight.
But [Sitthichai’s] fight with Marat [Grigorian], for me, that was like, ‘Okay, he’s got some holes in his game. You can touch him.’ He’s not shy from extending. He wants to bang sometimes, he’s got holes in his game, and I saw that.
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ONE: Where do you see your advantages over Sitthichai?
TO: With me, [my opponents] are looking at old fights of me. They think Tayfun is going to fight the same, just walk forward. But I’m not the Tayfun I was 16 months ago. I switched gyms. I made a big difference in my game because I’m now with a new organization. I needed a new energy, new tactics.
I think I’m going to surprise him with how fit I am, how strong I am, and I think he’s going to prepare from my old fights. But I’ve changed a lot and I don’t think he’s ready for what’s coming.
ONE: Sitthichai is a southpaw, which can make things trickier. How do you feel about that, and what are his other strengths?
TO: It’s not usual that someone is southpaw. Most of the guys you train with are usually orthodox, but all my training partners have changed to southpaw.
It’s not going to be the same as Sitthichai, of course. But now, I’m a little bit adapted to the right foot being in front of me, so I need to change stances and go to his right arm. Those are the things you need to do. He has a very hard kick, good timing, and very good reflexes. It’s going to be a very hard job, but I think I’m ready.
ONE: You’re on a 13-bout winning streak. Sitthichai said that this can make a fighter a little overconfident or careless.
TO: I’m undefeated for a long time, but I don’t see myself as an undefeated fighter. I’m a person. I can always grow and always learn.
I am now at the highest level that has ever existed in kickboxing in this division in ONE Championship. I can’t think, ‘I’m four or five years undefeated, so I will win.’ I have taken this very seriously. I don’t even think about the fights I’ve won before because this is a whole new era now.
ONE: You mention the strength of the division. What do you think of the many great fighters at featherweight with you?
TO: There is no easy fight here. I can’t pick one guy that is easy in this division. There is no walkover. This has never happened in the history of kickboxing, so many good strikers being in one division at the same time. Maybe the last time was K-1 MAX in Japan. But now, all the best guys from every organization are together now, and it’s going to be great.
ONE: Sitthichai also suggested that you have a glass chin. What do you say to that?
TO: (Laughs) I am glad he thinks that I have a glass chin! I hope he tries to come at me and knock me out, then we are going to get a real fight. If he comes at me, he’s in danger. I hope he doesn’t shy away from a fight. I want him to come and touch my glass chin.
In some fights, he goes forward but not always, so I hope he does – and if so, we are going to have a good fight. Thai fighters are good at avoiding the fight, but I hope he comes at me and wants to touch my glass chin. Then I will show him.