Karl Roberson had to fight through adversity to get the victory at UFC on ESPN+ 21 in Moscow on Saturday, but the New Jersey native did just that as he overcame a nasty eye poke that left him with a cut eyelid to claim a third-round submission win.
Roberson (9-2 MMA, 4-2 UFC) finished Roman Kopylov 59 seconds from the end of their light heavyweight preliminary card bout at the CSKA Arena and, speaking backstage to ESPN following his win, “Baby K” said he was happy with his night’s work.
“My performance came out the way I wanted it to,” he said. “We were going to stand there and bang. We were in his home town and we knew he was going to stand there and bring it to me, so I had to meet him. I came to him the same way he came. (He was) 8-0 – everybody’s looking for it, so I had to stop the hype train.”
Roberson revealed that Kopylov brought a different approach to the bout than he expected as he stood his ground more and looked to connect with big punches on the American. But Roberson met fire with fire and seemed to have the edge heading into the third round, when an accidental eye poke left him in some distress with blood pouring from his right eye.
It looked as if the fight might be in jeopardy, but after an inspection from the doctor, Roberson was allowed to continue, albeit with a necessary change of approach.
“In his other past fights he bounced a lot more, he slipped a lot and moved a lot,” he said. “This time he sat a little bit, threw more combinations and really came to fight, and it showed.
“The rest of the way (after the eye poke) was just go time because he hit me (and) I really couldn’t see anything. But where I’m from, Jersey, we don’t quit. It don’t matter if one eye or no eyes, I’m gonna stand there and bang. And I knew when he threw that first jab-cross and I couldn’t see it, it was time to change levels and show my experience.”
After his impressive performance, Roberson now says it’s time to set his sights on the light heavyweight top 15.
“I believe I deserve a top-ranked opponent – hopefully top 15,” he said. “I’m looking to go up and start picking off some top names and start making my name a household name in this division.”
But if a ranked opponent isn’t forthcoming for his next fight, he said he’d love to face off against a man with a similar fighting philosophy to his own.
“Even my boy Eryk Anders,” he said. “He’s a fighter, he’s from Jersey, we’ve both got that blood – we like to bang. I’m here to put on a show for the fans. I’d love to fight that guy.”
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