Reljic Talks UFC Debut

May 20, 2008
Croatia's Goran Reljic debuts in the Octagon at UFC 84. The 24-year-old, who trains out of Gracie Barra U.K., will take his undefeated record into the cage against American Top Team light heavyweight Wilson Gouveia (Pictures).

Sherdog.com recently spoke with Reljic about his background and his thoughts on facing Gouveia.

Sherdog.com: Goran, can you introduce yourself to the fans?
Goran Reljic: I am Croatian, 225 pounds, 6-foot-4 and I train with Roger Gracie (Pictures). My pro MMA record is 8-0. I hold multiple grappling tournament wins.

Sherdog.com: Why aren't you living in Croatia full time anymore? Since when are you living in the United Kingdom?
Reljic: I travel back and forth all the time.

Sherdog.com: How is the Croatian MMA scene. Is it popular?
Reljic: Yes, very much. I think after England and Holland, it is right there.

Sherdog.com: You have Brazilian jiu-jitsu in your background, but what else do you train in to fill your game?
Reljic: Everything that a professional fighter needs to: wrestling, muay Thai, boxing.

Sherdog.com: Do you still train with Mirko ‘Cro Cop'? When did you contact him for the first time?
Reljic: When I was 19 years old in 2004 and yes, I still train with Mirko when I am in Croatia.

Sherdog.com: How do you classify your standup game?
Reljic: Since I'm sparring with the best strikers in the world, my standup is expected to be excellent. But I guess we will see May 24th.

Sherdog.com: A few months back, fans speculated that the UFC would sue you because you participated in a BJJ competition in Europe. What can you tell us about that?
Reljic: That was a big misunderstanding.

Sherdog.com: Why did this rumor start?
Reljic: I competed at this tournament without notifying my manager and the UFC, so that was the reason.

Sherdog.com: How did you do in the BJJ tournament?
Reljic: I won the light heavyweight and absolute category.

Sherdog.com: What's the importance of training BJJ to compete in MMA?
Reljic: I think it is important like every other discipline.

Sherdog.com: How and when did you start in BJJ?
Reljic: When Fabricio Werdum (Pictures) came to live in Croatia.

Sherdog.com: Roger Gracie (Pictures) is your instructor. What do you think about the Gracie jiu-jitsu philosophy?
Reljic: I think that philosophy is great, but we all need to be prepared for war and have determination, especially when we enter the cage. I think that some things you can learn, but some of them you need to be born with. And it is important to have fighting spirit, be smart and have all the toughness to be the best.

Sherdog.com: How is the MMA training at Gracie Barra U.K.? What can you tell us about the routine and the team?
Reljic: Just Roger and me train in MMA on our team for now. To tell you the truth, Roger is the number one grappler in the world at the moment for sure, and this helps a lot. He's a magician and the most dangerous submission fighter on the planet. When you train with him, you go higher in your game in every workout.

Sherdog.com: You have two great instructors in Mirko and Roger in two different disciplines. How do you manage the training?
Reljic: It is hard sometimes because I travel a lot, but I have to do it in order to be the best.

Sherdog.com: You're undefeated on the Europe MMA scene, taking five fights by submission. Which one was your toughest fight?
Reljic: My last fight against Waldemar Golinski. I had an injury and I did not want to withdraw from that fight because I knew that I'd win even with the bad injury.

Sherdog.com: You're listed in our Fight Finder as a heavyweight. What can you tell us about that? Will this be your first fight at 205 pounds?
Reljic: I walk around at 225 pounds, but I will cut the weight for the first time in an MMA fight.

Sherdog.com: Why did you opt to fight as a light heavyweight?
Reljic: Since I am 23 years old, my body is still growing. After all, I spoke with my manager, Zoran Saric, and standup and conditioning trainer, Vlado Bozic, who advised me to cut weight to light heavyweight for now.

Sherdog.com: Wilson Gouveia (Pictures) is your next opponent. How do you overcome his experience inside the Octagon?
Reljic: All respect to him, he may have more experience in the Octagon, but I think that I am the better striker and better grappler.

Sherdog.com: So this fight won't go to a decision?
Reljic: One [finish] or another will come.

vSherdog.com: What do you think about him?
Reljic: I think Wilson is good and a well-rounded fighter and I like his style. He wouldn't be in the UFC if he wasn't a world-class fighter.

Sherdog.com: Do you believe he'll try to stand instead of going to the ground?
Reljic: To tell you the truth, I don't care. I am prepared to go anywhere and I am ready for everything.

Sherdog.com: Did you see gaps in Gouveia's game during his fight against Jason Lambert (Pictures)?
Reljic: Yes, he has some gaps for sure.

Sherdog.com: Which gaps did you see?
Reljic: I would like to keep it secret. It's maybe something that he did not see as gaps, but I will try to use in my game plan.

Sherdog.com: You're entering one of the toughest weight classes in the UFC. What's your vision of this division?
Reljic: UFC's light heavyweight category is the toughest of all. I hope I will put on a good show, and I am ready to face anyone.
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