‘Combat Wombat’ ready to announce himself in UFC debut

MMA news

By his own admission, UFC debutant Ben Sosoli hates working on his major weakness – getting off his back when under fire in the Octagon.

The 29-year-old has been called up to fight controversial American knockout artist Greg Hardy in Boston on October 19, a dramatic change of fortunes after Sosoli recently bowed out of Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender series.

His Contender experience ended after a no-contest when his opponent was floored by an accidental eye poke. Following that outing, the Sydney-born, Auckland-raised, Melbourne-based heavyweight was set to appear in White’s “Looking For A Fight” series in Hawaii before the UFC boss decided instead, to give him an opportunity on the biggest stage in MMA.

The news came as a shock for Sosoli, who was in bed before being woken up by a call from his coach, Aussie fighting veteran Dan Kelly.

“My missus woke me up because my coach was calling me and he was asking ‘what’s going on?’ and I went online and saw some people talking about my match-up on Twitter and I didn’t even know, and it kind of blew up and … here we are,” he told ESPN.

“Words can’t really describe [what it means to make a UFC debut] – you work towards something like this your whole career, thinking about one day fighting in the UFC and now I’m actually here.”

Sosoli — affectionately known as the ‘Combat Wombat’ — moved to Melbourne in 2014 to train with Kelly and rising light heavyweight star Jimmy Crute.

The 6″1, 120kg former rugby player, holds a 7-2 record (one no contest) with six wins by knockout from his 10 professional MMA fights, with his two losses coming by decision.

Possessing impressive power, Sosoli knows he has the ability to do serious damage by hand but it’s his weakness on the ground he’s trying to improve as he begins his UFC journey.

“The main thing I have to improve is getting off my back – [sometimes] I can’t get off my back … I do want to be fighting world-class wrestlers and world-class grapplers, so I need to improve that,” he said.

“If I’m being honest, I do hate having to work on getting off my back but it’s what I’ve got to practice the most, so that’s what my coaches get me to do the most.”

Sosoli, though, may not need to showcase his grappling skills against Hardy though, with both men likely to come out swinging in Boston.

The former NFL star is a fearsome striker, holding a 6-1 record with all six of his victories coming by first-round knockout.

Sosoli concedes his opponent will have the upper hand athletically but he hopes to surprise him.

“He’s pretty athletic from what I’ve seen, I know he hits super hard, so I have to keep my hands up and my head moving and be smart,” he said.

“I feel like I’m a lot more technical than him in most aspects but I know he’s more athletic than me so that’s why I have to draw on my experience and listen to my coaches.”

In Sosoli’s corner during these early stages of his career have been Kelly and Crute, who was recently ranked seventh in ESPN’s recent list of the top 25 MMA fighters under 25 years old.

Sosoli says Crute is one of the most exciting fighters on the planet, leading the charge for Australians and New Zealanders who are making their mark on the UFC.

“Anyone that has seen him [Crute] fight just can tell he’s going to end up fighting for a title sooner or later … he’s got all the talent in the world,” he said. “He’ll win a title one day.

“He pushes me really well, better than anyone I’ve ever trained with. “There’s a lot of fighters coming through [from Australia and New Zealand] before me and recently and there’s more coming through after me, so it’s awesome to be part of it.”

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