German Niklas Stolze who has early in his career sparred with UFC legend Connor McGregor wants to step up in his UFC debut and make it count in order to establish his own career in Mixed Martial Arts.

The 27-year-old welterweight from Magdeburg was scheduled to fight Russian Ramazan Emeev in the UAE on July 25, Saturday when Australian Robert Whittaker and English Darren Till will headline UFC Fight Night 174.

Emeev’s original opponent had to pull out with injury and therefore the chance went to Stolze who seized it when the call came in early July.

The emphatic reaction:

In an interview to the AFP during his flight from London to the Middle East, the German commented about his long-standing goal of making it in the UFC and the desire to prove himself. He was ecstatic about the opportunity and he celebrated with his girlfriend, but he was cautious enough to sleep early in order to train the following morning.

After the Coronavirus pandemic led to a global shut down in March, UFC President Dana White shifted the event to Abu Dhabi’s locked down Yas Island in the United Arab Emirates. Stringent safety protocols will mean that athletes and staff are tested twice for Coronavirus before leaving for the United Arab Emirates and twice again upon arrival.

Stolze’s arrival in the MMA scene:

Stolze’s nickname “Green Mask” was born when his coach Sascha Poppendiek said that he needed to attract attention during his entrance to the ring.

About the Mask, Stolze says that it was his lucky charm as he got a KO in his first fight wearing it, and thus the ritual continued.

After his MMA debut in 2014, Stolze traveled to Dublin from Germany the following year to test himself at McGregor’s Straight Blast Gym. After impressing Connor McGregor’s coach John Kavanagh, Stolze was offered the chance of sparring with the former double world champion who retired last month.

Stolze helped Connor McGregor to prepare for his 2015 win against Jose Aldo and two fights against Nate Diaz in 2016 which propelled the Irishman to superstardom.

About McGregor Stolze says that,

“He’s my role model and I am a huge fan, because of what he has achieved,” and added that,

“I wouldn’t say we’re friends, but we talked around training sessions.”

However, Stolze has had no contact with McGregor since the latter’s 2017 boxing bout with Floyd Mayweather but wants to carve out his own niche in UFC history. About his dreams at the UFC Stolze said that,

“I want to be a household name and be a fighter people get excited about watching.”

The story so far:

The July 25 fight was his first fight after his 3rd round win over Spain’s Omar Jesus Santana in April 2019 promoted by Germany’s Nova fighting Championship. A broken finger ruled him out of a fight in November 2019 and then he nearly retired from the sport after his next fight in March got canceled due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

About his canceled fight Stolze said that he had invested €4,000 (S$6,400) in preparing for that fight and the Coronavirus had unarguably put him in ‘a big hole’ and made him severely unhappy. Stolze is actually a qualified welder, and then he had to scout for other work. With the gym he used for training closed until June, he wondered whether his dream was over. However, he adds that he would return stronger as MMA was his sole beckoning.

Although Stolze admits that his finances are tight he says that he manages to support himself with sponsorship and ‘a very understanding girlfriend’.

Stolze remarks about his girlfriend, “She pretty much pays for everything.”

UFC fight nights draw a huge audience and a flurry of pay-per-views and having earned €1,500 for his win over Santana in April 2019, he has the chance to make 10 times that for fighting Emeev. 

What Stolze feels about his debut

Stolze’s victory last year did not come without a price as it cost him a broken nose and cheekbone after Santana connected with a right hook. About his injuries, Stolze said that he did not feel anything during the fight until he went to the hospital,

After weeks of hard training and preparation, Stolze believes that he is ready for the fight. About his fight, Stolze says that his gym mates go hard at him in order to test him while he is sparring. Not only is he used to the experience, but he is thrilled about it. He went on to say that,

“I am always excited before a fight, but when the cage door closes, I am calm.” 

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