Mariusz Pudzianowski is just getting started with his MMA career.
Earlier this month at KSW 70, Pudzianowski scored arguably the biggest win of his MMA career when he knocked out Michal Materla with an uppercut 1:47 into the first round. It was his fifth win in a row, and afterward, he even got a bit emotional, which he says was because of all the work that went into that moment.
“To be in the place I was Saturday, it had taken me 13 years to be in this place, to face this contestant,” Pudzianowski told Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour. “You needed to work really hard, you needed to toil, and it took me 13 years.”
Pudzianowski is widely considered to be one of the greatest strength athletes of all-time, having won the World’s Strongest Man competition a record five times, from 2002 through 2008. He then started to compete in MMA in 2009. Since then, he’s seen moderate success, amassing a 17-7 record with one no-contest.
At 45 years old and over one decade into his career in the fight game, Pudzianowski now believes he’s finally getting the hang of things.
“I had to reshape and retrain my body,” he said. “I was in heavy-lifting sports for 25 years. I’ve been in MMA for 13 years, so I had to reshape my body. And the strange thing is, although I’m getting older, I feel like it is easier and easier, kind of lighter for me to do the training than I used to do in the past when I was younger.”
That improvement is good for Pudzianowski, because his next fight may be the biggest of his career. Following his win at KSW 70, he was met in the cage by former KSW middleweight and light heavyweight champion Mamed Khalidov, who teased a potential fight between the two. Pudzianowski and Khalidov are two of the biggest draws in KSW, having collectively headlined 30 of the promotion’s 70 events.
A fight between the stars could be one of the biggest in KSW history, and Pudzianowski appears excited about the prospect.
“Mamed, that is going to be an interesting challenge,” Pudzianowski said. “When I started MMA, I learned everything from Mamed. I watched him, and now we might be crossing gloves one day. This might be a very interesting challenge for me, particularly.
“Most probably, that might be the next fight, but we still have some time before that happens. I’m not thinking about this at the moment. When I’m ready, it’s going to be in a year’s time or so, so it will be 12 months of toil, of real labor. I’m not going to be laid back. I’m going to work really hard.”
Khalidov has found himself in a career skid as of late, dropping four of his last five fights. Still, the name and the history would make a Pudzianowski-Khalidov bout a massive fight for KSW. It’s not the only one that could make sense, however.
The five-time World’s Strongest Man has previously suggested bouts against other World’s Strongest Man champions, Hafthor Bjornsson and Eddie Hall, who met in a boxing match in March. A bout with Khalidov appears to be the frontrunner though, and when it does happen, Pudzianowski believes it will have to take place in the biggest venue in Poland.
“Probably it will be the national stadium in Poland like it was two or three years ago, with 60,000 fans,” Pudzianowski said. “So when we sign the document on the dotted line, probably the national stadium and 60,000 people.
“I had a fight in such a stadium. It’s really outstanding. You cannot describe it in words.”
Pudzianowski is referring to PGE Narodowy in Warsaw, home of the Polish national football team and the largest arena in the country. KSW previously went there for KSW 39: Colosseum, an event headlined by Khalidov with Pudzianowski in the co-main event.
As for a potential date, Pudzianowski didn’t have anything specific, but he did say he was targeting a return to the cage before the end of the year.
“Hard to say, but you’re going to see me again this year, unless there is some injury during training,” he said. “But otherwise, you’re going to see me in the cage this year.”