In October, Sasha Palatnikov contracted COVID-19. A two-week quarantine followed. The day after he emerged from that lockdown, the UFC came calling. The opportunity, a spot on the UFC 255 card. His big league debut.
“It was a bit of a toss-up. But I said ‘hey if I get this opportunity, I have to take it.’ Sometimes if you don’t take it, you don’t get it,” Palatnikov (6-2) told media outlets including Cageside Press following the fight. “I just pulled myself together, got my mind right, came in and got the result.”
“I really feel like I could have put him away earlier, but Louis [Cosce] is a tough guy,” the newcomer added.
Luckily, COVID-19 recovery went well. “Three days, I had a wicked headache, really tired, then I lost my taste and smell which was really weird,” Palatnikov said. Meanwhile, the first fighter to represent Hong Kong had spent the past year training at Syndicate MMA in Las Vegas. “The goal was to come here and you know, get the opportunity to maybe take something on short notice and fight in the UFC.”
Mission accomplished. But Palatnikov had to prove a lot of doubters wrong Saturday. So many that it actually fueled his performance.
“My father was sending me non-stop predictions from these guys on YouTube telling me that I was garbage and how Louis was going to put me out in the first round,” revealed Palatnikov. “And you know that really dug deep to me, and it hurt because I’m like, ‘man, you guys know nothing about me.’ I’ve been in this game since I was five years old. I was one of the best karate fighters in Southeast Asia growing up as a kid, I’ve been fighting forever and for them to put that on me, it kind of put a chip on my shoulder.”
That chip on his shoulder paid dividends in a fight that saw a strong start from opponent Louis Cosce. Cosce hurt Sasha Palatnikov early, had him under fire — but the 31-year old weathered the storm and began to take control as the fight wore on. In the third round, he finally put Cosce away for a TKO finish.
Quality of competition may have played a role as well. “No disrespect to Louis,” Palatnikov added, “but he’s been fighting in his own backyard in California against guys that, in my opinion, I would never fight because I would never fight someone with such a bad record.”
Watch the full UFC 255 post-fight press scrum with Sasha Palatnikov above.