Jack Hermansson is getting used to marching into enemy territory and coming out with a win.
On Saturday, Hermansson (17-4) will face Wisconsin's own Gerald Meerschaert (28-9) at UFC on Fox 31 in Milwaukee. It will mark the third straight time the 30-year old Swede has fought in his opponent’s stomping grounds: Hermansson scored a memorable third-round finish of Thales Leites at UFC 224 in Rio de Janeiro, just across the bay from Leites’ hometown of Niteroi. Immediately prior to that, he lost to Thiago Santos at UFC Fight Night 119, also in Rio. “The Joker” is becoming accustomed to hostile crowds and claims it isn’t a factor once the door of the Octagon is closed.
“It's something I've done throughout my career” Hermansson told Sherdog.com. “This is nothing I care about or think about. You must be able to win your fight nevertheless, if you want to be the best.”
Hermansson’s middleweight clash with Meerschaert is part of the preliminary card of Saturday’s event, the very last card on the Ultimate Fighting Championship's broadcast deal with Fox, which will go down at Milwaukee's Fiserv Forum. Both fighters have a very high finishing rate -- 14 of Hermansson’s 17 victories have come by stoppage, while Meerschaert has only heard the final horn twice in 28 career wins -- so it's hard to imagine a scenario where they go to a decision, but Hermansson maintains he is ready for anything.
“I think that my opponent’s main strength is his grappling, since he has 20 submission victories in his career” Hermansson said. “I know that he got a KO victory in the UFC, so I’m not underestimating his striking ability either. He is a southpaw, so I have to be very careful. I’m happy for the opportunity to fight against him, I’m looking forward to it and may the best man win. I really hope that a win over an opponent like him will put me in the top 15 ranking of the UFC middleweight division. It would be cool to be ranked. If I will not be ranked after this fight, I would like to face the right opponent in my next fight.”
The Frontline Academy representative has gone 3-1 in his past four Octagon appearances, with all three wins coming by way of knockout. Hermansson authored one of the more impressive wins in his UFC career in his last fight, when he blasted Leites with some big shots and forced a stoppage from referee Marc Goddard at the 2:10 mark of the final round.
“I broke my rib during the very first round” Hermansson said. “It was difficult to continue, I had to fight through a lot of pain. At one point, I even get frustrated, because of the severity of the pain. Thales was a tough opponent, he is a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, but I can stand my ground in grappling also. I knew that my ground-and-pound was far better than his. Once I connected, he had no chance of surviving. I was looking just for an opening, any opportunity. I just kept on believing in me and I took home the ‘W.’”
As Hermansson prepares to make the walk to the Octagon to the now-familiar boos of a partisan crowd yet again, he credits his camp and his fans with helping him maintain the necessary focus to go into hostile territory and emerge victorious.
“It was a pretty long camp but I’m satisfied with the outcome” he said. “I’ve trained in Oslo, as usual, at Frontline Academy with Mohsen Bahari, Hakon Foss and Kenneth Bergh, among others. I couldn’t train from May to September because of the injury. The rehab went as should, but I it took some time. I want to thank all my training partners for supporting me through the times of injury. I wish to thank all my fans around the world for believing in me, I’ve managed to go through these tough times thanks to you.”