photos copyright 2004 Zuffa LLC
February 21, 2010, the Ultimate Fighting Championship will be making its
Australian debut at the Acer Arena in Sydney, and for this momentous
occasion UFC President Dana White promised: “We will be bringing some
of the biggest names in the world to Sydney plus be giving top
Australian mixed martial artists the opportunity to showcase their
talents in front of a home crowd.”
in this star-studded package are two of the most successful competitors
in the lightweight division: Australia’s George Sotiropoulos (11-2-0)
and America’s Joe “Daddy” Stevenson (31-10-0), with George coming
into the match after winning all four of his UFC bouts.
a teenager, Sotiropoulos was instantly hooked on ultimate fighting when
he witnessed Royce Gracie dominate the early UFCs through his Brazilian
Jiu Jitsu style of fighting in 1993/94; however it wasn’t until The
Ultimate Fighter 6 series in 2007 that another generation of UFC fans
were similarly inspired by Sotiropoulos.
like his fellow competitors on TUF 6, George’s climb into the Octagon
has been a long and arduous one, as illustrated on www.georgesotiropoulos.tv:
Sotiropoulos began training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in 1997, winning many
Australian titles; he represented Australia at the 2003 and 2007
Submission Wrestling World Championships. He also trained and
competed in amateur and professional boxing, placing in the top three of
multiple Australian wrestling competitions and also winning the
Victorian State Amateur Boxing Title in 2004. In November of the
same year, George began competing in MMA and won an Australian
fortunate to chat with Sotiropoulos during a break from his training in
Royce Gracie has been a big influence on
you. Have you met him in person?
but I would like to, one day.”
were your original boxing and wrestling coaches?
wrestling coach was Ziggy Kelevitz – a three-time Olympian, a
two-time silver medalist at the Commonwealth Games, a gold medalist at
the Commonwealth Games in Edmonton in 1978, and a 17-time winner of the
Australian National Wrestling Titles.
“For boxing, Meta Balla was my coach and he is both an amateur and a professional Australian boxing champion. Ziggy and Meta are both Victorian.”
in your MMA career, family and friends didn’t understand what you were
training for. Are you a family hero now?
nephews and my nieces won’t leave me alone: They think I’m Superman.
And my parents are very happy for me and proud of me.”
reflection, what brings a smile to your face about those early days when
you started training?
liked the days when I was training with Ziggy and Meta. Those days
were great, and the whole time I was training I was contemplating
fighting in the UFC and now I’m finally here, so those days have come
to fruition. It was seven-days-a-week training: I spent my week days
training in Geelong, Hoppers Crossing and Melbourne, and on the weekends
I’d be with Ziggy or Meta training or competing. I was always
around it seven days a week.”
until the rush on UFC 110 tickets in Australia, the mainstream media
here ignored MMA. Now there seems to be a major article on the UFC
in the papers every day. Is it a bit of a shock to you the way
things have changed here?
always knew the nature of this event was going to garner a lot of media
attention. And now, because the tickets sold out in eight hours,
it just shows you the strength and the hype behind this event.
Whether the media or the general public wanted to acknowledge it, this
sport is the real deal – you can’t ignore it. Sales do the
talking and the UFC is here to stay.”
defeated Sergio Lourenco in Guam on January 27, 2006, and I believe this
is where you first met Enson Inoue. In what capacity did Enson
attend the event, and how did the two of you connect?
was there as a guest and he’s highly regarded in Guam. He’s
very well connected in his training capacity and has a gym on the
island, and a lot of people travel to Japan to train with him, so after
my fight he came up to me, saying he loved my fight and that I should be
fighting in Japan. My response to that was, ‘If I come to Japan
will you get me fights?’ He responded, ‘Hell, yeah.’
I returned to Australia and quit my job teaching jiu jitsu, wrestling,
boxing and MMA at a club in Melbourne to compete and train in Japan for
you train exclusively at Fisticuffs Gym in Vancouver, Washington, these
“I do the bulk of my training at Fisticuffs with Leonard Gabriel for boxing, but I also travel down to Los Angeles to do jiu jitsu with Eddie Bravo… You can’t avoid travel in this sport… And I still go to Las Vegas to train with Saohin, my Muay Thai trainer.”
not at Xtreme Couture anymore?
I moved from Las Vegas to Washington after UFC 101 in August, but I
still train with some friends there.”
and Joe Stevenson both seem to have a grappling base. Is that
where you expect your bout with him to be mainly contested?
possibly – I don’t rule it out, but really, the fight could go
anywhere and I don’t have a crystal ball, but the fight could go
are you expecting from Joe?
well-rounded; he has good striking, good wrestling and good grappling,
so the fight could take place in all three of those areas. And
it’s the same with me: I have good striking, good wrestling and good
grappling, so the bout could take place over all those aspects of the
fight game – it could be an equal proportion of each, or it could be a
hell of a lot of grappling. I don’t know.”
crowd is going to go nuts when you step into the Octagon in Sydney.
How will this affect your performance?
a bonus to have the crowd on my side… Fighting in front of Australians
is something I never expected and I’ve always had a good reception,
and this will be the greatest reception I’ll have had. But at
the end of the day I block it all out because the crowd and everything
outside the cage is irrelevant when that door shuts.”
is there anything you’d like to add?
just like to thank all my trainers – Leonard Gabriel, Eddie Bravo and
Saohin for having faith in me and working with me. I’d also like
to thank Ziggy Kelevitz and Meta Balla for all their time and effort
early on. They helped develop the tools I have today.
can’t express enough gratitude towards my parents. Their help
and support was essential, and without them I wouldn’t be doing MMA.
would like to thank Todd White and Enson Inoue for being a huge help and
for their support along the way.
thank you to my friends and fans for cheering me on – especially all
the Greeks and Australians who are behind me.”
Sotiropoulos’s sponsors: Fisticuffs Gym, 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu, Blue
Planet Lighting, and www.purebredusa.com.
For more on George Sotiropoulos: www.georgesotiropoulos.tv.