Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou had a lot of hype to live up to when he made his UFC debut last December. Though his record was a thin 4-1, two of his wins were quick knockouts of top-ten light-heavyweights Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Ricardo Arona, and most MMA pundits had him ranked as a top-ten 205’er himself. Unfortunately, Lyoto Machida proved that the Cameroonian fighter still had a lot to learn, particularly on the ground. Still, Sokoudjou bounced back at UFC 84 in May, beating Kazuhiro Nakamura to a pulp and regaining his ferocious reputation.
This Saturday, he’ll be facing Brazilian Luis Cane on the main card of UFC 89 in Birmingham, England — another fearsome striker with a 1-1 Octagon record and a lot to prove. Ben Zeidler tracked down the African Assassin over the weekend to ask him about his upcoming fight, his loss to Machida, his public call-out of Mauricio Rua, and the “gentle way“…
CAGEPOTATO.COM: What potential problems does Luis Cane pose for you?
RAMEAU THIERRY SOKOUDJOU: He’s a good stand up guy and he’s knocked out a bunch of people so I have to watch out for that. He’s got a good left and he throws it all the time. He’s a solid boxer so it’s just something I’m going to have to deal with.
Do you think you would try to take him down? Do you have an advantage on the ground?
I’m not gonna say that yet. I’ll try to be careful around his strong points and show his weakness. I’m gonna be ready to do it all. I’ve been training like I’m fighting the best on the ground and the best on the feet. I’m ready.
How has your training changed to face him?
It depends on what you mean by change. Machida was beating me with technique, not strength. I realized that I couldn’t rely on just my strength. Guys used to roll with me and say I’m the strongest guy they faced but I still need to put more effort into technique. I need to be able to use them together, and that’s how my training has changed. Other than that, it’s the usual camp.
Were you hoping for a bigger name opponent for this fight?
I’m a fighter who is looking for a way to make money. I’m not gonna disrespect Luis by saying he’s not a big enough name. He’s just a fighter like me, he’s never lost other than a DQ, and he’s in the UFC. Anyone in the UFC is a great fighter and I respect that a lot.
What’s it like training with Dan Henderson at Team Quest?
Oh man, they’re hard on me. I wish I were 38 or 39 so I knew some of the stuff he knows. You’re supposed to start falling apart in your 30s, but not Dan.
Would you ever want to take on Machida again?
Definitely. You know, he opened up some mistakes in my game. Now, I’ve been working on what he showed me so it was a blessing in disguise. I’m working on all of my weaknesses right now and it would be great to fight him again and see how far I’ve come.
After the Nakamura fight, you challenged Mauricio Rua. Did he disrespect you or did you just want the fight?
No, I love the guy. He’s a complete MMA fighter. It’s a way of me challenging myself and trying to see how far I am from him. It was my way of saying “Shogun, beat the crap out of me and show me what I need to work on.”
After Cane, do you have anyone in mind for a next opponent?
Whoever gets me my paycheck. I called out Shogun and got Luis Cane. (Laughs) You can’t choose your opponents in this sport. The only thing I can say is that I will fight anyone: boy, girl, young, old.
How much does the Judo help you in the UFC? Do you find yourself relying on it?
The Judo gives me the confidence that not anyone can take me down. I don’t have to worry about the takedown. I can’t say that it’s helped my physically but it’s definitely helped me mentally.
I’ve heard whispers of your competing in judo in the Olympics. What did you think of the judo participants in the past Olympics? Were you thinking “I know I could beat these guys”?
You know how it is when you watch sports. You’re sitting there and you think you can beat all these guys. But it’s a different story when you’re there and on the mat. I’ll be watching and I get mad at other people’s mistakes. But I know that you gotta be on the mat to know what’s going on.
Okay, but would you want to do it?
I’d love to, but Judo don’t pay no bills.
You’re about to fly to London. What’s your schedule once you hit the ground?
I’ll be in Manchester for a couple days, fight, and then party! I’m staying for the K-1 fights too so I’ll be hanging out.
Do you enjoy being with the UFC? Do they treat you as well as PRIDE did?
Put it this way: they’re two different organizations. PRIDE is more Japanese style and that’s what I grew up doing with my judo. I love the Japanese culture and doing the Gi judo. On the other side, UFC is the place you want to be right now, especially for my weight class. You get all kinds of exposure and you get paid. It’s a shame PRIDE went out but the UFC is great for me right now.
Tell us what to expect from Sokoudjou on Saturday.
I’m gonna get paid! I need money for Christmas. That’s all I can say.
Anything to say to your fans?
Tune in on Saturday and you’ll see a great, exciting fight.