George Sotiropoulos | Dave Mandel : Sherdog.com
Lightweight contender George Sotiropoulos is expected to fight Dennis Siver on Feb. 27 at UFC 127 in what could be a pivotal lightweight bout.
Siver has won five of his last six in the UFC. Meanwhile Sotiropoulos is 7-0 in the Octagon and will have the home-field advantage: The event takes place in Sotiropoulos’ native Australia.
“I’m very excited because it’s going to be a very popular fight,” Sotiropoulos said recently during a “Savage Dog Show” interview on the Sherdog Radio Network. “I’m going to get a lot of fan support when I’m down there. I get a good reception here in the U.S., but when I go home, it’s going to be a whole different ballgame. I’m going to have all of the crowd behind me, and it’s going to be very loud.”
Of course, while the support is nice, Sotiropoulos isn’t saying it will necessarily help him against Siver.
“Once that door closes, it’s just you and your opponent,” he said.
Some fighters might also be burdened by fighting in their backyard. As Australia develops into a hotbed for MMA, Sotiropoulos is a key figure considering his success in the UFC. That could add pressure.
“I think I’ve been cast into the spotlight because of where I’m from and my success, but I don’t feel burdened,” Sotiropoulos said. “I just go out there and do what I do. I don’t really get into the hype or the bulls--t that people talk about. For me, I’m just focused on what I do, which is training and fighting. The rest is really irrelevant.”
There was plenty of talk Sotiropoulos had to ignore leading up to his last fight. In November he submitted Joe Lauzon in the second round of their UFC 123 matchup, but before the bout, Lauzon helped stir debate over whether Sotiropoulos was gaining an unfair advantage by wearing compression pants, ankle braces and knee braces.
Sotiropoulos dismissed the allegation, saying it hadn’t bothered him.
“Nobody said anything before when I was under the radar, when I wasn’t a threat, so to speak,” he explained. “But the reality is, it gives both fighters the same advantage. There is friction obviously with fabric, but the amount of friction I have against my opponent, he has against me. It’s a level playing field. That’s the bottom line. Nobody says anything when it’s Randy Couture wearing those knee sleeves or Frank Mir or Tim Sylvia or B.J. Penn. They say something now that it’s with me. I think there’s a bit of bias there. I don’t know. It’s pretty obvious what’s going on.”
If nothing else, Sotiropoulos knows he’s moving into the spotlight. He’s also moving into title contention, though he’s uncertain when he could get a shot at the belt currently held by Frankie Edgar.
“Your guess would be as good as mine,” Sotiropoulos said.
Edgar defends against Gray Maynard in January, and the winner of that fight is expected to face Anthony Pettis. Even with a win over Siver, it could be a while before Sotiropoulos gets to fight for the gold. In the meantime, he plans on more wins and staying humble.
“I think I’m one of the best lightweights. I think it’d be hard to say, ‘You’re the best,’ because there’s so many good guys out there. It would be conceited to say that you’re the best,” Sotiropoulos said. “You’re not comparing apples to apples. Everybody brings something different in this sport.”
Listen to the full interview (beginning at 56:45) with Sotiropoulos, who also discussed issues with judging.