German light heavyweight Alexander Poppeck returns to action next month at Oktagon 39, where he’ll meet up with countryman Martin Zawada.
The fight has a prospect versus veteran feel to it, with Zawada a longtime mixed martial artist who first fought professionally in 2003.
Poppeck himself turned pro about a decade later; for western fight fans and UFC fans in particular, he might best be remembered as Jamahal Hill’s opponent on Dana White’s Contender Series. Hill won that 2019 match-up, and earlier this month became the first Contender Series vet to win a UFC championship. Since their meeting, Poppeck himself has posted a 6-1 record — virtually identical to Hill’s own efforts since their encounter (Hill likewise has gone 6-1, with a No Contest thrown in the mix).
“His [Jamahal Hill’s] performance was amazing. Of course he defeated Glover [Teixeira]— very, very good. Glover didn’t have a good chance. Very, very good performance, he dominated the fight,” Poppeck (15-4) told Cageside Press in a recent exclusive interview. “I’m interested in how he will continue now as champion.”
Seeing the success of his former foe has in turn motivated Poppeck, who would be down for a rematch some day.
“Yeah of course that motivates me. Him now winning the UFC championship there, it motivates me to come back there to this level, and maybe we meet again in the cage for a rematch some day.”
In the immediate future, however, Poppeck is satisfied with Oktagon MMA, who return to Germany for Oktagon 39 in Munich.
“For now, I’m very happy with Oktagon, with how they treat the fighters. And how the promotion is growing as well, here in Germany and in Europe,” said Poppeck. “So I’m very happy with Oktagon, but I won’t shy away from another UFC opportunity. Let’s see how things go, and we’ll plan from there.”
Poppeck actually called out Martin Zawada after his last fight, and as luck would have it, the organization was able to put the fight together. “He’s a legend in the sport here in Germany, so I want to match myself with the best. It’s a good opportunity, so I chose him for my next competition,” Poppeck said of the callout. The match-up was far from a given, however.
“I didn’t know [if Zawada would accept], because Martin stopped his career after his last fight. But there were talks that he wanted to come back, et cetera. So I just did the call out, and eventually the fight happened, so here we are.”
With Zawada returning from what amounts to a brief retirement, Alexander Poppeck expects him to be both motivated and highly trained, but he remains confident in his own abilities.
“I still expect a ready and well-trained Martin Zawada, a motivated Martin Zawada. That’s why I am preparing as well, to the fullest of my energy,” Poppeck told us. “But honestly, I’m very confident to win this fight. I see my strength, my explosiveness, my age, athletic ability higher than his. And also my skill set is more well-rounded than his. I see him more like a brawler or boxer. So yeah, I have more ways to win this fight.”
With three first-round finishes in his past three fights, everything appears to be clicking for “Ironside” these days (the nickname, for those curious, comes from his resemblance to the Vikings character). Poppeck believes it comes down to hard work and consistency, among other factors.
“Just hard work, like consistent work. I never take too much time off. And also athletic development. Getting stronger, more explosive, but also more skilful. Everything is coming together right now, I think I’m finally in my athletic prime. And this is what I’m showing in the cage.”
Alexander Poppeck faces Martin Zawada at Oktagon 39 on February 11, 2023 in Munich, Germany.