It wasn’t long ago when Alessio Sakara was a promising contender in the UFC’s light heavyweight division. Though the Italian wasn’t an undefeated stud, he had already traveled the globe and scored several impressive wins that led to his signing with Zuffa.
While under contract with the UFC, Sakara’s career was a like a see-saw. It seemed that whenever “Legionarius” would take one step forward, it was followed by two steps back. Though he showed flashes of brilliance, Sakara always traded a win for a loss. When he dropped four straight, he was released from his contract with the Las Vegas-based promotion.
According to Sakara, most of his troubles came in preparation. During his UFC tenure, he dropped down from light heavyweight to middleweight, and though he eventually won three straight at 185 pounds, Sakara says cutting the extra pounds was taxing his body.
“People don’t understand how many pounds I had to cut to make that weight,” Sakara told Sherdog.com in a recent interview. “For me, that was very bad. I had no focus, no energy, no strength -- nothing. I had to eat the right foods every day and I had to cut weight every day, and at that weight, it was a big problem for me.”
Sakara is one of the latest UFC veterans to sign with rival promotion Bellator MMA. He aimed to rebuild his career in the Final Fight Championship promotion and, back at 205 pounds where he says he belongs, “Legionarius” is coming off a solid performance where he trounced Dib Akil inside of two minutes.
“Now that I’m back at light heavyweight, I feel so much better, more comfortable,” said Sakara. “If you saw my last fight, I was explosive. My strikes were rapid. It was much better in my training because I was able to focus only on my training and not about my diet or cutting weight. It was very easy for me and I’m much more comfortable.”
If he is to dominate in the Bellator ranks like he believes he can, Sakara will need to be comfortable. Standing in front of him for his promotional debut on Saturday is Brian Rogers, a longtime Bellator vet whose career has been just as topsy-turvy as the Italian’s. Rogers has lost six of his last 10 and, just like Sakara, he’s coming off a victory in which he finished his opponent.
“For me, it’s very good that I am fighting him for Bellator because he is a very tough guy,” Sakara said of Rogers. “He’s very good and he’s a good size. I wanted to only fight big guys and, for me, this is perfect.
“If you look at my style, I like to go for the knockout whenever I fight,” he continued. “He likes to do the same but he might come with a different strategy. If so, that is okay because I will still do my striking, no problem.”
Aside from being signed on by another major MMA promotion, the biggest plus for Sakara is that he won’t have to travel halfway across the globe to fight. For the first time in over a decade, Sakara will be able to compete in front of friends and family in his home country.
“I am very happy to be fighting in Italy,” he quipped. “My whole career once I signed with the UFC, I was not able to fight inside of my own country, but now I can. This is a big promotion and I am so happy that Bellator is coming to Italy. I have a lot of fans in this country and my family will be able to see me fight. I have a good attitude and I am very happy for this.”
When asked about any added pressure he may have going into his showdown at the Pala Alpitour, Sakara was candid in admitting that there is some anxiety, but it’s nothing he can’t overcome.
“That is normal to have a lot of pressure to fight in front of my family, friends and fans,” he remarked. “But I am a professional guy and I know that sometimes I’ll have to fight in my own country. I don’t expect anything other than a great fight, a very tough fight. I focus only on my job. I can’t think about anything outside [the cage] because I have to focus only on my job, and that is to fight and win.”