Oktagon 40: Welterweight Tournament May Have Extended Bojan Velickovic’s Fighting Career

Bojan Velickovic, Oktagon MMA
Bojan Velickovic (left) Credit: Oktagon MMA

Welterweight Bojan Velickovic has the sort of opportunity coming up at Oktagon 40 that few fighters ever see. Let alone twice.

Where that opportunity leads him remains to be seen. Velickovic (21-12-2), who has previously called promotions like the UFC and PFL home, will be one of 16 fighters taking part in Oktagon MMA’s million euro welterweight tournament, getting underway this coming Saturday, March 4.

Velickovic flirted with such a windfall in the PFL, but he doesn’t expect that to give him an edge as he heads into his opening-round fight with KSW vet Ion Surdu. The 34-year old known as “Serbian Steel,” who has been working the front desk and teaching classes at Easton Training Center in Colorado — “building a carer,” more accurately — knows every fighter in the tournament will endure the same hardships.

“I don’t put too much thought into it. I think it’s the same for everyone, I just take it one fight at a time,” Velickovic told Cageside Press regarding applying his past experience to this upcoming tournament. “I can’t predict what the future brings and all that. It’s important to win this fight that’s ahead of me, and then the next one, and then the next one.”

That said, the prospect of fighting multiple times in a short span changes training “a little bit,” said Velickovic. “It does a little bit and it doesn’t. As you said, you have to be a little bit more careful, but at the same time, you want to get ready well and you want to win. If I’m saving myself for the finals, which is six, seven, eight months away and I get to the next fight and I lose, then I lost and it doesn’t really matter. So I am trying to be careful but at times, I just push the gas and I don’t think too much about it.”

Sordu’s fights have a tendency to end early, a factor not lost on Velickovic. “He does seem like he’s dangerous. He doesn’t fight super smart, but he’s exciting, which I think fans favor and like. I think he’s going to bring the heat, he already kind of sent me a message through Oktagon that he’s coming to knock me out in the first round, which I’m sure he will try to do,” the welterweight revealed. “But then as you said, I have a lot of experience. I’m going to try to use my experience along with the skills I acquired in this camp and the years leading up to this competition.”

Winning the welterweight tournament would mean a lot to Bojan Velickovic, and not just because of the windfall at tournament’s end. In fact, the tournament may have kept Velickovic in the sport a little longer, as the UFC vet was contemplating either retirement, or at least taking a break from fighting.

“It’s [money] definitely not the main reason I’m in it, but I was thinking last year, I’ll retire because I’m so involved. When I’m into something, I’m so extreme and full-throttle that I put aside some of the very important things in my life like family, getting married, starting a family and all that,” Velickovic explained. “I was thinking maybe it was time to put fighting on the side, maybe not even retire, but for some amount of time, dedicate to this. And when this opportunity came, it definitely got me excited and fired me up. It is a good opportunity to see if, for all these years I’ve been doing this, since 2010 so 13 years, if I’ve collected enough experience and skill to win a tournament like this.”

And so, confirmed Velickovic, the Oktagon welterweight tournament will keep him active for at least a little longer. “At least for, as I said, maybe after this tournament, depending on how it goes, I think I have one more fight with Oktagon. Maybe I decide to fight quick after that, maybe I decide to talk with people with Oktagon, put that on the side for a little bit, come back after a year or two of layover.”

Velickovic notes that some UFC fighters have done that in the past, and returned looking rejuvenated — including one of his main inspirations, Georges St-Pierre. GSP, of course, took four years off after his final welterweight title defense, then returned to defeat Michael Bisping for middleweight gold. “He’s one of my role models for sure, one of the reasons that I fell in love with this sport when I was starting. And he was the champion in my weight class,” Bojan explained. “If I take a few years to get married and try to start a family, maybe a business, something that doesn’t make me so dependant on when my next fight is going to be, when my next fight is going to be, maybe if I fight without that pressure, maybe I’m going to fight a lot better.”

Where would Velickovic go if he wasn’t fighting? Not far, as it turns out. “I don’t see my life outside of martial arts currently. That’s why we started this talk with me telling you that I started working the front desk at this academy.” Essentially, Velickovic is working to learn all aspects of the business, from teaching to working the desk to signing up new members at the gym. “They’re thinking about expanding to other states, in other cities, that’s why I took a management role, running a kids program, and working the front desk learning to sign people in, so one day I can run my own school, or a new location for their schools.”

First up, however, it’s the welterweight tournament, with Bojan Velickovic facing Ion Surdu in the opening round this Saturday, March 4, 2023 in Ostrava, Czech Republic.