George Sotiropoulos file photo: Sherdog.com
George Sotiropoulos won a unanimous decision Saturday in a lightweight main-card bout at UFC 116, but he didn’t sound entirely happy with his impressive performance.
Mainly, he sounded relieved.
“I’m happy that I won,” Sotiropoulos said. “I wasn’t happy with what happened at the end of the last round.”
What happened at the end of the third round was opponent Kurt Pellegrino dropped Sotiropoulos with a knee and tried to finish him on the ground. Time ran out, though, and Sotiropoulos survived to win the decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28). The victory improved his record to 6-0 in the UFC and 13-2 overall.
“I think he had to come out hard in that last round and perform because he was definitely down (after) the first two rounds,” Sotiropoulos said. “I made a mistake, and he capitalized. I’m really happy. It’s a lot of pressure off my back right now.”
Knowing he was up on the scorecards influenced Sotiropoulos’ strategy for the third round.
“I didn’t want to rush in there and make any stupid mistakes,” he said. “I was cautious. It’s something I’ve worked a lot with my boxing, wrestling and jiu-jitsu trainers -- you know, rushing in is a flaw. It can get you into a bad situation. It’s something we talked a lot about. With Kurt, in a lot of his other fights with guys who rush in, he’s able to capitalize. I didn’t want to give him that opportunity. I was playing it smart.”
The win no doubt advances Sotiropoulos in the UFC lightweight title picture. Division champion Frankie Edgar rematches B.J. Penn on Aug. 28 in Boston, and Sotiropoulos is officially in the hunt.
“I’m impressed with him,” UFC President Dana White said at the UFC 116 postfight news conference. “I was blown away with his (fight against) Joe ‘Daddy’ Stevenson. He looked incredible tonight against a guy I have a lot of respect for too. Kurt Pellegrino’s awesome. (Sotiropoulos) is right there, man. He’s fought his way into the mix, no doubt about it.”
It doesn’t hurt that Sotiropoulos is Australian either. He could become a key figure as the UFC grows in the country.
“Australia is becoming a huge market for us. A very big market,” White said. “Does any country make more sense than Australia? All men’s men, tough guys. Is there a p*ssy in Australia? I don’t think there is. It’d be hard to find one. So yeah, Australia makes a lot of sense for us. Thank God we got a guy who’s actually really good from Australia.”