During the “golden age” of the UFC in the mid to late 2000s, the light heavyweight division was the centerpiece of that era. The most prestigious title in the sport essentially became a hot potato as no one could hold onto it for more than seemingly just a single defense at best.
That eventually changed with the emergence of Jon Jones and the rest, as they say, is history.
But in more recent years, the 205-pound weight class hit a bit of a dropoff point and the division became far from what it used to be. That partly being the UFC’s own fault as they allowed some of their top talents to depart for other organizations such as Bellator.
However, entirely unrelated to either of the aforementioned America-based promotions, a man known as “Giraffe” has established himself as a force to be reckoned with. That being none other than the current KSW kingpin, Poland’s Tomasz Narkun.
Standing at 6-foot-3, the 30-year old BJJ black belt is currently 17-3 and has defended his title a whopping five times. In between defenses, he’s had himself some super fights with fellow champions Mamed Khalidov and Phil De Fries.
Most notably, Narkun became the man to halt the legendary Khalidov’s epic eight-year 15-fight unbeaten streak in a 2018 Fight and Upset of the Year candidate. After a wild first two-rounds, Narkun pulled off the win via a third-round triangle choke letting the world see just how great he’d become.
The stopping of the middleweight dominator catapulted Narkun into rightful superstardom. In the immediate rematch, Narkun made it clear it was no fluke. Thus leading him to an attempt at capturing the KSW heavyweight crown.
Though unsuccessful in that attempt, upon returning to his light heavyweight kingdom, he reminded everyone that he was still one of the absolute best at that weight. A first-round guillotine of Przemysław Mysiala only added to Narkun’s submission tally as his 13th career victory in that fashion.
On November 14 at KSW 56, Narkun will look to defend his crown yet again as he takes on the undefeated 9-0 Ivan Erslan. As evidenced by Jan Blachowicz’s recent UFC title win, it’s not a bad time for Polish light heavyweights. But when discussing the very best in the world, Narkun’s name cannot be left out of the conversation.
Ahead of his showdown with Erslan, The Scrap caught up with the “Giraffe” himself.
Drake Riggs: Have you done anything special to make the best of the unique time off? If I’m not mistaken, this is the longest layoff of your MMA career.
Tomasz Narkun: “That’s true, I didn’t fight for a long time but the longest I didn’t fight for was after my contract with M1 [in 2011]. As always, when I have more time than normal I improve my skills in every part of my game to get better and better.”
DR: Most of your opponents in recent years have been extremely experienced. Now you’re defending your title against Ivan who is still just 9-0. Does that make the challenge any greater for you when taking on someone who is more unknown and on the come up?
TN: “For me, it doesn’t matter how much experience my opponent has because I’m always prepared to fight my fights and at the fight, I do my best and never disregard my opponents. I know that Ivan wants to save his 0 in his record and he will be very determined but I won’t let him take my belt. My belt is gonna stay in Poland!”
DR: Ever since you won the KSW title, I think it has been fair to say that you’re one of the very best light heavyweights on the planet. And you’ve only further established that since with your defense and wins over Khalidov. Do you feel overlooked at all when it comes to the discussion of the best 205-pound fighters around the world?
TN: “Thank you if you think that. Every day at training and at every fight, I try to give 100 percent of myself so if someone still doesn’t think that I’m one of the best 205-pound fighters around the world, very soon I’ll change their mind.”
DR: Speaking of beating Khaldidov, after you did that, you went up to test yourself against the heavyweight champion in Phil De Fries. Unfortunately, the fight didn’t go your way but what were your biggest takeaways?
TN: “Many things went wrong, but I don’t want to explain myself. My opponent was better than me that day, but it doesn’t mean that he is the better fighter. If I will get a chance, I will show everyone that was only an accident.”
DR: As for mentioning Khalidov, I’m just curious what you thought of his recent win in the Scott Askham rematch. I feel like no one saw that coming. What did you think of that win?
TN: “I wished the best for him before the fight. I wanted him to win and I knew that Mamed could do that and that was what happened.”
DR: You’ve already accomplished a lot in your career. When it comes to any big goals, outside of let’s say capturing the heavyweight crown as mentioned, do you have anything in mind down the road? Whether it’s in or out of fighting.
TN: “Now, for me, the most important thing is my next title defense. I have my goals in my mind but I don’t want to talk about them right now. I will share them with you after winning my fight.”
DR: Is there anyone you would like to fight that you haven’t yet?
TN: “No I don’t have anyone in mind. I just want to fight with the best fighters as much as possible.”
DR: You’ve really been the king of Poland in your division for the last so many years, as mentioned when you became champion. But before you, there was actually Jan Blachowicz who held the KSW title at a point. Now he just recently claimed the UFC title with an incredible performance. What did you think of that moment for him?
TN: “I think that was a great moment for him. He worked for that for his whole life. He deserves that. He was KSW champ and now UFC. I’m KSW champ now so…”
DR: Would a big Poland super fight between you and Jan be something that interests you if it’s ever possible?
TN: “I’m in KSW and he is in UFC. We used to train together a lot. But I think it is possible, maybe someday.”
DR: If you never got into MMA, what do you think you would be doing right now?
TN: “I would be a DJ.”