EXCLUSIVE | Herdem Alacabek aims to become the UFC’s next Swedish star

Herdem Alacabek
Image: @herdemalacabek205 on Instagram

If you’re not familiar with Herdem Alacabek yet, you probably will be soon.

The Swedish light heavyweight, who has kickstarted his pro mixed martial arts career with five straight finishes, is narrowing in on a UFC roster spot. In fact, he could put pen to paper very soon.

When Gokhan Saki was forced off this weekend’s UFC London card, Alacabek was one of several fighters to attempt to step in and replace the kickboxer against Saparbek Safarov.

In the end, the UFC decided to go another direction, but Alacabek is undeterred. The Stockholm native, who has trained previously with UFC stars like Ilir Latifi and Alexander Gustafsson at Allstars Training Center, believes there’s a good chance he’ll be invited to compete on the upcoming UFC Stockholm card.

“I think it would be very brilliant for me to fight in Stockholm,” Alacabek told BJPenn.com. “I grew up there, in a suburb, in a project area just outside Stockholm. I was born there. I started training when I was there. In my early teens I started wrestling, submission wrestling. I trained with a lot of good names out there, like Ilir Latifi. He was the one that really introduced me to fighting.

“It would be natural for me to fight there,” he added. “I feel ready today. I feel ready any time.

“I’ve held out a long time for this. I’m 27 years old. I’ve sparred with a lot of good guys. Just recently, I’ve sparred with Luke Rockhold, Alexander Volkov. I know where I am [skill-wise] today.”

If Herdem Alacabek isn’t invited to debut at UFC Stockholm this June, he expects to compete on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series shortly thereafter. He’s more than happy to earn his UFC roster spot in this way if that’s what it takes.

“I think it’s a great opportunity,” he said of Contender Series. “It’s interesting and fun to fight in front of the key people of the UFC. Everything I’ve done, I wanted it to lead up to me fighting in the UFC. That’s what I wanted for my career. That’s the experience that I want as a fighter.

“It’s a unique thing, the UFC,” he continued. “This is the experience I want as a fighter, and where I want to grow as a fighter and man. I want to be part of the UFC, and I want to fight with the best guys eventually. That’s what I’m trying to do. If Contender Series is the first step, then I’m happy to do it.”

Whatever the case, the Swede believes he’ll find himself under the bright lights of the Octagon very soon.

At 5-0, he’ll be fairly inexperienced compared to many of his light heavyweight rivals, but he’s not remotely panicked about his potential experiential deficit. He knows how dangerous he is.

“I believe in myself,” he said. “Just to articulate it, if you were a high caliber rifle, it doesn’t matter if this rifle has been fired enough times. It doesn’t change the fact that it is still a high caliber rifle. That’s the way I look at myself. I know I have the quality to fight these guys that are in the UFC today. I know I have the quality to fight top-15 guys, if not this year, next year. It doesn’t matter if I’m 5-0. It’s a fight. At the end of the day, we’re all human, we all bleed red.”

“I feel I have enough talent, enough skillset to go all the way.”

Once Herdem Alacabek joins the UFC roster, he believes he has the goods to become the promotion’s next big Swedish star. In fact, he hopes to represent the country once Alexander Gustafsson decides to call it a career.

“The crowd I’m going to draw is going to be very mixed,” he said of his ever-expanding fan base. “My parents are Kurds, but I was born and raised in Stockholm, Sweden. Sweden, they don’t really have a next big star. Alexander Gustafsson, he’s very good. I’ve trained with him when I was younger. He’s done his part now. I feel that when he walks away, it’s time for someone else to take the crown, and I believe that person will be me.”

Until he makes his debut, Alacabek will continue training diligently at the world famous Black House gym in California.

“You just keep doing what you think is good,” he said. “I think the physical aspect is very important. I think it’s very important to have good cardio, conditioning. I feel that of course the sparring has to be on point, the wrestling. You know, it’s mixed martial arts. You just have to keep getting better. You just have to keep developing your skills.

“At this point I just need to be prepared as well as I can be for the big day,” he concluded. “People train for the Olympics for years. People that sing, perform their arts, do whatever, they train for one moment where the breakthrough comes. I feel it can be the same for me. I can be in the shadows for 10 years, but I only need an hour in the limelight and everything can change.”

This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 3/11/2019.