Scott Askham believes Khalidov has to return after he wins the KSW title

KSW return for their third show of the year on Saturday 18th May 2019 with a blockbuster card that is headlined by the culmination of their middleweight tournament to crown a new champion. The Ergo Arena in Gdansk, Poland plays host to the rematch a year in the making as Scott Askham (17-4) travels into enemy territory once again to take on fan favourite, Michal Materla (27-6). The partisan crowd will be hoping that their fighter will be able to gain revenge for his loss to the man from Yorkshire last year. Askham will be looking to join Phil De Fries as the second current English title holder in the promotion and prove that the Brits can more than hold their own against Poland’s finest.

After Mamed Khalidov vacated the KSW middleweight title in favour of pursuing a rematch with light heavyweight champion, Tomasz Narkun, KSW announced a four man tournament to crown the next king of the division. Both semi finals took place at KSW 45: The Return to Wembley with the winners then squaring off in early 2019 to see who would reign supreme. Scott Askham and Michael Materla both saw off Marcin Wojcik and Damian Janikowski respectively with first round knockouts to earn their places to contest for the belt. In his bout, Askham was in control on the feet before he landed a monstrous liver kick (almost identical to the one he used to crumple Materla) to see off the challenge of Wojcik. He was pleased with that performance but didn’t expect his opponent to stay on the feet with him the entire fight like he did.

“My last fight went really well,” said Askham. “I honestly believed when he said it was going to be a stand up battle that he was trying to trick me because he wanted the takedown. I wasn’t going in just looking for the liver kick as I have a good range of strikes. When I’m in there, I see openings real time and that kick just presented itself so I take what is given to me. I feel like my timing is on point since my move to American Top Team (ATT).”

When KSW released their excellent fight promo video for the bout, Askham claimed that the promotion originally wanted the rematch at KSW 47 in March but Materla said that he wouldn’t be ready to compete on that date. However, a few weeks before the event, Materla posted on social media that if anyone pulled out of a fight on that card then he would be ready to step up which Askham didn’t appreciate. The Englishman didn’t view the situation as a case where Materla was scared to fight him but instead looks at it as a sign of respect. He thinks Materla knows what a tough test he faces when they meet again inside the cage.

“I wish I had time on my hands to learn Polish so I could find where KSW said ‘the tournament final will be early in 2019’. We got a message saying ‘Materla won’t be ready’ so I had to wait until he was,” explained Askham. “It totally wasn’t KSW’s fault as they can’t make him fight. A little while after, I got a text from my Polish friend saying ‘Materla says if there are any drop outs he will be ready’. I went online, had my say about it and that was it. We haven’t said anything to each other’s face or anything but he knows that was a p***y move. You can tell from his reaction in the promo.”

“I respect that he was taking me seriously and wanted time to prepare as it shows what it means to him to win the belt,” Askham continued. “However, don’t then try to take another fight. I have also been preparing since October to fight him. There is no doubt we will be ready to put on a show for the fans!”

This fight will be the first rematch of Askham’s career so he has the benefit of having already experienced what it is like to share the cage with Materla. Come fight night, their first meeting would have taken place just over a year ago so it is still relatively fresh in Askham’s mind. It did only last 1 minute though so he doesn’t think there is much benefit to studying that bout in too much detail as he didn’t get to feel an awful lot of Materla’s game. Askham also doesn’t believe that his own game has changed that much since he finished Materla but is aware that the former KSW middleweight champion will be extra motivated for this upcoming clash. He knows that he can’t go in feeling complacent just because of what happened before.

“There’s not much to study from our first fight really,” claimed Askham. “I am expecting a different fight but the same outcome. I feel that he will rush me a lot more this time but nothing much can change in the way he fights since our last bout as it wasn’t long ago. Myself and my team hear that they are planning on taking me down and that he’s this next level grappler. If you had seen the grapplers and wrestlers I have been training with you would understand my confidence! Don’t get me wrong, I am not thinking this will be a walk in the park. I would love to fight all of the guys who have beaten me. He’s now got that opportunity so I know that he will be wanting to put that right. I will be ready!”

“I am still the same fighter as the last time we fought although I’m slightly better everywhere,” said Askham. “Nothing majorly stands out to have changed a lot since the last one. However, my confidence is higher than ever. Not just because I have beaten Materla already but because of how my training is going. I take great confidence from my camps.”

As a result of finishing Materla so dominantly and quickly the first time around, it is now going to be extremely tough for Askham to try and top that performance so there is a risk that he may not look as impressive as before. The 30 year old is aware of this though and isn’t concerned by it. Askham will be looking to build on his current three fight win streak in his first ever five round fight on Saturday night in front of his loyal, travelling ‘Askham Army’.

“I can’t really beat how last time went,” said Askham. “It can only go better for Materla really I think but who knows? I am always in there looking to get my opponents out of there so I start fast and throw hard. It could be another short night make no mistake about it! I never make predictions as it’s the fight game and anything can happen. I know I have back to back round one finishes but believe me they don’t come easy so I’m ready for five hard rounds. If that’s what I need to get the title then I am ready but if I can get him out of there earlier I will.”

Many would argue that this is the best version of Scott Askham anyone has seen yet and he is more of a complete fighter now than he has ever been. He has never been finished in his career and his only professional losses have come in the UFC to high level opponents like Jack Hermansson and Krzysztof Jotko. Askham, who has finished 11 of his 17 wins by knockout, went 5-4 in the UFC but only began training with one of the world’s best camps for his final fight in the promotion. He feels that switch in training environment has really helped him to step up his game.

“I feel as though things haven’t suddenly just clicked,” explained Askham. “Its been a process and I get better every fight but its had a lot to do with my move to ATT. After I had trained with that camp for the first time, I lost my UFC fight in a split decision which I believe I won. Anyway, that’s done and I lost but that was the start of the momentum change. That was the most strikes I have landed in any of my UFC fights. The bout after that I would love to know how many significant strikes I landed. I have great coaches and training partners who are all on the same journey wanting the same goals. We practise pushing each other to the edge.”

KSW have made a conscious effort over the last few months to try and appeal to a wider audience by signing fighters with different fan bases around the world. Bringing in competitors like Satoshi Ishii and Thiago Silva attracts interest from outside of Poland and adds even more depth to already stacked cards. Askham is playing a key part in this expansion to draw further UK interest and has recently signed a new contract with the promotion. This goes to show that there is most definitely life for fighters outside of the biggest American promotions and Askham is loving where he is at at this stage of his career.

“KSW are amazing to work for,” stated Askham. “I will be a very proud champion of KSW! It will be by far my biggest career achievement to date! I can’t say a bad word about them. Their opening ceremony in Lodz for my debut was just something else! To be the main event for KSW is very exciting and I can’t wait. I was delighted to get the new contract sorted before this fight. I am so pleased to be in KSW and I would happily end my career here.”

If Askham is victorious and captures the KSW middleweight title on Saturday night, there are no obvious contenders who are next in line. Aleksandar Ilic may be someone on the roster who could claim that he is the number one contender after his highlight reel knockout of Damian Janikowski at KSW 47. Due to Mamed Khalidov vacating the middleweight title, there wasn’t an official changing of the guard moment where the Polish MMA icon elevated another middleweight in the division. Khalidov announced he had retired after his second loss to Tomasz Narkun but Askham doesn’t believe that retirement is set in stone. He would like nothing more than to stand opposite him in the cage in what would be a massive fight for the company.

“Khalidov hasn’t retired!” claimed Askham. “He just threw his dummy out after a couple of losses. He will come back 100%! He just needs the right motivation. I think with me winning the title, he has to come back.”

KSW 49 can be purchased at kswtv.com and kicks off on Saturday night at 6pm BST.

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