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10th Feb 2016

Mike Wilkinson: “If Conor McGregor can do it then there’s no reason that I can’t do it”

"Thank you, Conor"

Darragh Murphy

October 4, 2014.

That was the last time that we saw Mike Wilkinson in the octagon.

Injury has meant that there will be 511 days between fights for the Wigan-born featherweight but he is raring to go for the UFC’s next trip to London and ‘The Warrior’ subscribes to the Dominick Cruz school of thinking with regards to ring rust.

“I don’t believe in ring rust,” Wilkinson said. “The people who say that use it as an excuse for failure. I believe in hard work. I go to the gym every day and put in the hard work so I don’t have to use the excuse of ring rust.”

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Wilkinson meets vocal Finnish fighter Makwan Amirkhani on February 27 and he’s not taking the home soil advantage for granted.

“I think it’s been five years since I last fought at home,” he continued. “Just the fact that I’ll have all of my family and friends there is going to make it memorable.

“When I’ve fought abroad, obviously not everybody could come because people have work commitments and families, etc. But I’m going to have a shitload in my corner at the end of the month.”

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Wilkinson, whose only professional loss came in 2013, is eager to repeat the performance he put in against Amirkhani’s former teammate Niklas Backstrom which ended via first round knockout.

Amirkhani burst onto the scene in 2015 with a pair of first round victories that lasted a combined 1:49 but Wilkinson maintains that a victory over ‘Mr Finland’ will allow him to steal all of that momentum.

“I’m going to take all the hype like I did with Backstrom. I’ve been the underdog most of my career and he’s coming off two quick wins in the UFC but, with no disrespect to the fighters he’s faced, they’ve not been great. He’s not stepped his level up. He’s doing that with me and it will show on the 27th.

“The gameplan is to win, no matter what time or round. I can compete wherever the fight goes and I’m 100% not afraid of his grappling.

“I’m from a wrestling background. I’ve just never had the opportunity to showcase it. If he wants to take it down, I’m comfortable there. There’s nothing that he brings to the table that concerns me.”

Wilkinson competes in the featherweight division and he’s intent on following the same career path as the reigning 145 lb champ Conor McGregor.

“My goal is to have three or four fights in the UFC, to make up for lost time.

“I want Diego Brandao, I want Max Holloway, Dennis Siver, Chad Mendes. I want everyone who Conor McGregor’s faced.

“If Conor can do then there’s no reason that I can’t do it. He’s done great things.

“Much respect to him. A lot of people dislike Conor but I personally think he’s doing the right thing.

“He’s bringing a lot of eyes to the featherweight division, bringing more people and that’s only going to be a good thing for me in the long run so thank you, Conor.”

In a recent interview we conducted with Wilkinson’s opponent Amirkhani, the Finnish fighter claimed that he was fighting for the Irish this time around as he had heard that Irish people don’t really like the English but Wilkinson laughed off those claims.

“Obviously, if he’s said he’s doing if for the Irish then he should do it for the Irish. Why isn’t he doing it for his own country, though?

“I’ve got no issues with Ireland. I don’t hate Ireland but I’m fighting for England because I’m English. I’m not doing it for Australia, I’m doing it for England.

“He’s just a little bitch. He walks around with a little smirk like a ladies man and if I could say anything to him before fight night, I’d say ‘enjoy your first UFC loss.'”

Watch Mike Wilkinson action at UFC Fight Night: Silva vs. Bisping on Saturday Feb 27, live on UFC Fight Pass.