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27th Feb 2016

Makwan Amirkhani: “I’ve heard the Irish don’t really like the English so I’m doing this one for them”

"I'm definitely going to knock him out"

Darragh Murphy

After a month in Dublin, Finland’s Makwan Amirkhani has returned home.

Although he admits that the incessant rain wasn’t ideal, the promising featherweight enjoyed his time in Ireland where he trained under John Kavanagh at SBG.

“It was perfect,” Amirkhani said. “Everyone in Ireland was so nice and welcoming and it’s a shame I couldn’t stay longer this time.

“The training at SBG was unbelievable. John Kavanagh definitely knew what he was saying and teaching. Even though I’ve been in this sport for a very long time at this stage, John was able to teach me many new tricks.

“It felt really safe there which stood out to me. There is a sign at the entrance to the gym that says ‘No shoes or egos beyond this point.’ You have to leave all of that at the door and it shows on the mat. Nobody was trying to prove anything.

“I got along really well with Paddy Holohan. The first time I came into the gym, he was so nice and it was just one of those situations where you meet someone with the same mentality as yourself. He showed me a lot of respect and I showed him the same.”

Amirkhani left his previous gym, Stockholm’s Allstars Training Centre, in mysterious circumstances last year and revealed that there is a noticeable difference in philosophies between SBG and Sweden’s premier MMA gym.

“What I can say is that at Allstars, the tempo and the amount of sweat was a little bit higher. It was always a bit more intense which isn’t exactly bad.

“If you asked me which I prefer, I would say SBG because I’m more comfortable with John. With him on the mat, everything always starts with the positives and ends with the positives. The result was always good.

“I will definitely come back to SBG again. When we were initially talking to John, I said that I was going to come out for a couple of weeks at the start of the year and he was all for that idea. But just a few days ago, he asked me to do some specific training and I said ‘I have to go home tomorrow’ which he seemed shocked by because he said ‘oh, no. Why so soon?’

“He was really happy to have me there and I was really happy to be there so it was a nice relationship.”

The 27-year-old was training alongside the champion of his weight division, Conor McGregor, and many wondered how the pair would get along after Amirkhani once said that “he can kiss my ass.”

But the 12-2 featherweight revealed that he had no problems with ‘The Notorious’ in the gym.


“McGregor was a cool dude,” Amirkhani said. “I wouldn’t say that he was unlike how he comes across online and on TV but, of course, there was no trash talk or anything.

“We spent time together and he was asking me about my life, my history with Allstars and my position in the sport.

“We didn’t spar at all which was probably a good thing because he looked like he weighed close to 100 kgs when I was there.

“He’s a good guy and it’s always better to make your judgement of someone after talking face-to-face rather than just go off their persona.

“Who knows if we’ll fight each other down the line. I know that he will destroy Rafael dos Anjos and it wouldn’t surprise me if his future was at lightweight, he’s really big.

“Only God knows what’s in store for us.”

Amirkhani’s next fight takes place at UFC London, where he meets Wigan’s Mike Wilkinson, and ‘Mr. Finland’ has predicted another first round knockout which would be his third consecutive one in the UFC.

“I’m definitely going to knock him out in the first round,” he said.

“There’s not been much trash talk so far with Mike but when it comes closer that might start up again.

“I’ve heard that the Irish don’t really like the English so I’m doing this one for them.” 

Despite training under Kavanagh for the last month, Amirkhani won’t have any SBG representatives in his corner in London but insists that will all change after the Wilkinson bout.

“We were talking with John Kavanagh about the corner thing and he wanted me to try having a few coaches from Ireland but I’d already made my decision for this fight.

“I’m going to have one Finnish coach in my corner and a few friends but I’m going to knock Mike out in the first round anyway so I won’t need cornermen too much.

“After this fight, I’m going to renegotiate my UFC contract and sit down with John to hopefully get him into my corner for future fights down the line.”

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