Rakić has spent much longer on the sidelines than he wanted, but it appears he’ll finally have the chance to secure number one contender status when he returns to action in the first quarter of 2022. The Austrian last entered the Octagon at UFC 259 in March, where he defeated former title challenger Thiago Santos by way of a unanimous decision.
After challenges sent the way of fellow top-five Jiří Procházka fell on deaf ears and an apparent rematch with Anthony Smith fell through after an injury for “Lionheart,” Rakić’s next outing was finally confirmed. He’ll meet European peer Blachowicz in the main event of a UFC Fight Night scheduled for March 26.
Following the announcement, Rakić spoke to MMA News’ James Lynch to discuss his upcoming fight with the Polish behemoth, his rivalry with Czech knockout artist Jiří Procházka, his experience training with Khamzat Chimaev, and his feud with former opponent Smith.
Rakić Targets Title Shot By Slaying A Former Champion
While Rakić has certainly been impressive in his UFC tenure to date, which most believe should see him unbeaten at 7-0 given the controversial nature of his split decision loss to Volkan Oezdemir, Blachowicz will be no easy path to go through to reach the top step at 205 pounds.
Before losing his belt to Glover Teixeira at UFC 267, the Pole had experienced an unlikely resurgence and title crowning. Having became champion after upsetting the odds against Dominick Reyes last year, Blachowicz recorded a successful defense by adding the first blemish to the record of middleweight king Israel Adesanya.
Rakić told MMA News he’s expecting a motivated Blachowicz come March 26. However, given the fact he’s yet to feel what it’s like to sit on the top step, “Rocket” believes he’ll be “much hungrier” when the pair enter the cage together.
“I’m thinking that he’s gonna come with the extra motivation to our fight and to be a better version, you know. To beat a guy even more hungry than before and more willing to get the belt back, it’s gonna be awesome. He was already on the top, he knows how it feels. I was never on the top and I was never a champion. So I am much hungrier than him, that I can say.”
Nevertheless, Rakić acknowledges the challenge he has in front of him. Hailing from a central European country himself, the 29-year-old is aware of the toughness Blachowicz has inside him. With that in mind, the Austrian will be preparing for war as he looks to secure a title shot for later in the year.
“I have a great team and we’ve been watching Jan for a while now… He’s a tough guy. He’s from Poland; from this area, guys are really tough. He’s coming not to lose, he’s coming for everything. But I am from the same area. I’m the same…I’m gonna be right on point on the 26th of March to get the W and to secure my title shot.”
With Teixeira and Procházka expected to collide for the gold in the second quarter of 2022, likely April or May, according to the Brazilian, it stands to reason the winner of Rakić vs Blachowicz will be fighting the champ in the back end of 2022.
Who do you think will have their hand raised in the March 26 UFC Fight Night main event, Aleksandar Rakić or Jan Blachowicz?