Oktagon MMA has a budding star on their hands with Georgia’s Mate Sanikidze, who could very well be the next big thing to come out of the mountainous European nation.
The Georgian wave of MMA has been well documented over the past few years. Fighters like Merab Dvalishvili, Giga Chikadze, Roman Dolidze, Levan Chokheili and others have made their mark in promotions including the UFC and Bellator MMA. Sanikidze (9-2), known as “NextGen,” is now on the radar after securing the featherweight title under the Oktagon banner earlier this month.
Sanikidze has the likes of UFC bantamweight Dvalishvili suggesting that “NextGen” is next, in fact. That’s high praise from a fellow fighter that Sanikidze believes has all the tools to become a world champion some day, he told Cageside Press in a recent interview.
Thanking Dvalishvili and wishing him luck in his own career, Sanikidze told us via translator that “it makes me so proud, it makes me so happy to hear that from such a guy like Merab, who is a successful man in the sport,” going on to add that “that’s so much motivation for the young guy, for the athlete who has big goals and dreams in his career, to become successful, to become the champion and to show the world that he’s the best.”
The Georgian wants nothing more than to make his people proud, saying “I would love to share my happiness with my people, because we are a small country who cheers together all the time. I just want to prove what Merab said, and I feel like I can prove what he said and show the world that I’m one of the best among them.”
Proving that will mean continuing to win, of course. Sanikidze had done that through six straight fights, claiming gold against the previously undefeated Jacub Tichota on December 3. Next up, there are talks of a fight with Losene Keita, either at featherweight or for the Oktagon MMA lightweight title. There’s still another champ out there as well, Ivan Buchinger.
Sanikidze admits that as champ, there are a lot of options for him, and a lot of offers on the table. More will come in the new year, he expects. But as he sees it, “it doesn’t matter who will be next in front of me. Maybe Buchinger, maybe Losene Keita, whether is be at lightweight, featherweight, or even the bantamweight division.”
“I know that I’m the best here, and I have to prove that I’m the best. It doesn’t matter if I’m the best in Europe or even the U.S.A., I have to prove to the world that I’m the best,” Sanikidze added. “I’m always thinking about letting the world count my belts in every promotion that I join.”
The mention of a bantamweight run might come as a surprise, but Sanikidze believes making the limit there will not be an issue.
“It’s not gonna be hard for me, because I’ve done it already in my early career,” he told Cageside Press. “The last night before the official weigh-ins, all the fighters had a rough weight cut, they tried to cut the last pounds. But me, before the official weigh-ins, the last night I had a dinner. I ate what I wanted to eat before the official weigh-ins, and in the morning I made weight easily, without problems.”
“When I did bantamweight in my early career, that was a little bit hard for me, because I didn’t know how to do that, and I had made mistakes during the weight cut — but I did it. And now I think that I learned many things about weight cutting, and it’s going to be much easier for me to go down to bantamweight.”
As far as the future is concerned, there’s also the chance Mate Sanikidze eventually moves to a promotion like the UFC. A good chance. “Of course, U.S.A. is in my mind always, and I’m always thinking about continuing my career in the United States,” he stated.