Thursday, September 24, 2020
Sept. 24, 2020

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Vancouver fighter set for ultimate challenge

By , Columbian Soccer, hockey and Community Sports Reporter

Sotiropoulos moved to Clark County to train at Fisticuffs

George Sotiropoulos has traveled the world pursuing his ultimate dream.

He spent a year in Japan. He’s traveled to Brazil, Guam and Greece.

But when it came time to train for the perhaps the biggest fight of his career — and his UFC debut — Sotiropoulos came to Vancouver to prepare.

On Saturday in his native Australia, Sotiropoulos is scheduled to fight Joe Stevenson in a 155-pound bout as part of UFC 110 in Sydney.

It will be his debut on a UFC main card, one of the featured fights on a show headlined by a heavyweight fight between Minotauro Nogueira and Cain Velasquez.

Sotiropoulos takes a professional record of 11-2 into his fifth UFC fight. He has won his first four UFC bouts, including second-round submission wins in August at UFC 101 and in November at UFC 106.

The match with Stevenson (36-10, 8-4 UFC) is billed as a battle between two fighters with strong wrestling backgrounds. At 27, Stevenson has more mixed martial arts experience. But Sotiropoulos said he is confident his speed and submission tactics will give him a solid shot at a fifth-consecutive win.

Just after the November triumph, Sotiropoulos got married in New York and moved to Vancouver with his wife, Cliona.

“She’s from New York, but she likes it out here,” Sotiropoulos said.

It was a coach who drew Sotiropoulos to Vancouver.

Leonard Gabriel, a Vancouver police officer and part owner of Fisticuffs Gym, has been the boxing coach for Sotiropoulos for three years.

“He’s a excellent boxing trainer — the best I’ve ever worked with,” Sotiropoulos said.

It was through Enson Inoue — a Jiu-Jitsu fighter and former UFC champion who is famous in Japan — that Sotiropoulos met Gabriel.

Before moving to Vancouver, Sotiropoulos was training at in Las Vegas, and commuting regularly to Vancouver and to Los Angeles for specified training sessions.

A black belt in Jiu-Kitsu since 2004 — the year he turned pro — it was during a year training in Japan with Inoue that Sotiropoulos developed skills that helped push him into a higher tier of competition.

“That was probably the greatest experience so far in my life,” Sotiropoulos said of his year in Japan.

Among the MMA experiences on Sotiropoulos resume is being a competitor on The Ultimate Fighter reality television series four seasons ago. This week, he gets to fight in his homeland with a crowd of 17,000 behind him.

Before leaving for Austrailia, Sotiropoulos downplayed the his role as bringing attention to the event because it’s in his homeland.

“All I really care about is the fight,” he said. “The rest is just fireworks.”

Sotiropoulos said he knows this fight is a big step up in competition. But he feels prepared for the challenge. A win over Stevenson might not vault him to the level of contending for the UFC lightweight championship, but it will get him significantly closer to his ultimate goal:

“Be a champion and be known as one of the best,” he said.

Columbian Soccer, hockey and Community Sports Reporter