On Saturday 23rd March 2019 from the Atlas Arena in Lodz, a champion v champion clash will happen that no one saw coming. The man who has reigned as KSW light heavyweight champion since October 2015, Tomasz Narkun, is stepping up a weight division to challenge heavyweight king, Phil De Fries. The promotion are billing it as a battle that pits size against quickness and agility as ‘The Giraffe’ looks to become the second double champion in KSW history.
In his last contest in December, Narkun (16-2) defeated legend Mamed Khalidov for the second time, thus proving that their first meeting wasn’t a fluke. Narkun had to overcome some early adversity in that fight as he was knocked off of his feet in the first round but rallied to land some great leg kicks during the second round. There were some fascinating ground exchanges that took place towards the end of the fight where Khalidov narrowly escaped some of Narkun’s submission attempts. Having Khalidov’s name in the win column on your record is a huge achievement, let alone having completed the feat twice and subsequently retiring the Polish MMA icon. Narkun was pleased with his performance but won’t allow himself to become complacent as he eyes up his 8th straight win on Saturday night.
“I was very well prepared for the last Khalidov fight both mentally and physically,” said Narkun. “I had control all of the time and I was looking for the finish the whole fight. Even though I won, I still have to work hard. It was a great feeling (to retire Khalidov). He had never lost in KSW and I defeated him twice. He couldn’t take this so he retired but I think he will be back soon as he is a real warrior!”
After that bout, fans began to speculate who could be next in line to try and take the title from the 29 year old. Wagner Prado seemed like a front runner because he had finished his first two KSW bouts with big knockout wins as no one thought that Narkun moving up to heavyweight was a viable possibility. Just as it appeared that Mariusz Pudzianowski v Szymon Kolecki was the main event for the show, KSW surprised everyone with the announcement that a super fight was scheduled to headline the card. However, it turned out that this wasn’t the first time that Narkun looked to take on larger opponents.
“Two years ago, when Fernando Rodrigues was heavyweight champion, I tried to fight with him but KSW didn’t give me the chance,” explained Narkun. “Now, when Phil is the champion, me and my team asked again about this idea and the promotion liked it. So now we have the fight!”
Compared to his previous contest, the roles are now reversed for ‘The Giraffe’ as he is now the one looking to take on a physically bigger opponent rather than trying to fend off the smaller foe. Despite moving up in weight, his preparations haven’t really changed very much for this fight and he isn’t worried about size playing a decisive factor in the contest.
“I haven’t actually looked to put on any size before this fight. My normal weight is 108-110 kg (238-242 lbs) so actually I’m a natural heavyweight. After I worked really hard training for this fight, my weight is about 105 kg (231 lbs),” Narkun continued. “That’s enough for me because I am going to be faster, agile and have more cardio than De Fries does.”
Since moving to KSW, Phil De Fries (16-6 1NC) has really turned his career around, finishing both Michal Andryszak and Karol Bedorf within the distance to claim the heavyweight title. De Fries will be looking to implement his strong grappling and suffocating top game to give Narkun no chance to string together any of his own offense. However, Narkun is very confident in his own abilities and doesn’t see the Englishman being able to cause him too many major problems.
“Phil won against the top Polish heavyweights so I think that he is a very good fighter,” said Narkun. “I will be smaller in this bout but like I said before, I have many other assets. I’m going to dominate during the fight!”
Narkun boasts a 94% finishing rate inside the cage with 15 of his 16 wins being finished inside the distance so his opponents are aware that he can close the show given the slightest of openings. He believes that he is the face of KSW as this is his third main event in as many fights. During the prefight build up, he has noted that it doesn’t feel right that an Englishman is holding the KSW title so will be looking to make sure the belt remains in Poland. If he were to be victorious, he hasn’t even thought about whether or not he would look to defend both belts or relinquish one of them.
In today’s MMA landscape, sending fighters across different promotions is becoming more common with the likes of King Mo, Kyoji Horiguchi and Darrion Caldwell appearing on cards with promotions that are working together. Certain fans and media members have discussed the possibility of a KSW v Bellator card with the best competitors from both promotions facing off for bragging rights. This is something that would definitely be of interest to Narkun.
“As you can see I like challenges. I fought twice against Khalidov who was the KSW Middleweight Champion and now I am fighting Phil De Fries who is the KSW Heavyweight Champion. If I had the chance to face champions from different promotions I would definitely take it! Fights against Ryan Bader or even UFC champion, Jon Jones, are bouts that I would love to compete in.”
Narkun made it very clear that he is extremely happy competing for KSW as they are helping him to fulfill his dreams. On the other hand, it wouldn’t be natural to not consider how he would do competing against the very best in the world in the major American promotions. This is something that Narkun told WHOA TV he may want to explore someday in the future. However, for the moment, his sole focus is on Phil De Fries come Saturday night and if he can leave the Atlas Arena in Lodz, Poland with a second belt, ‘The Giraffe’ would be head and shoulders above the rest of his current competition.
KSW 47 can be purchased at kswtv.com and kicks off at 6pm on Saturday evening. WHOA TV will be in attendance at Atlas Arena so stay tuned for coverage all week long.