Augusto Sakai isn’t the most well known name in the UFC heavyweight division. On Saturday night at UFC on ESPN+ 34, however, Sakai hopes to take one step closer to changing that.
Paired up against legendary heavyweight Alistair Overeem, Sakai (15-1-1 MMA, 4-0 UFC) will compete in what is widely considered his first marquee matchup. Though Sakai admits he didn’t watch Overeem’s career play out in real time, he recognizes the Dutch fighter’s stature in the sport as one of the all-time heavyweight greats.
“It means that I’m ready to become also a legend and write my own history inside the heavyweight division,” Sakai told reporters at a virtual pre-fight media day held Thursday.
Recognizing Overeem’s standing, Sakai thinks he has the opportunity to build off his opponent’s name with a win. Sakai has no doubt a victory against Overeem (46-18 MMA, 11-7 UFC) will push him into the elite of the UFC heavyweight rankings.
“I know that if I have a great performance Saturday night, everyone’s eyes will be on me,” Sakai said. “I will be one of the top five guys in my weight class. That’s the goal. … After winning against Overeem, the top five is where I’ll be, absolutely.”
UFC on ESPN+ 34 marks Sakai’s first main event since signing with the promotion. Despite having never competed in the championship rounds, Sakai didn’t voice concern about competing late in a 25-minute fight.
“It’s a big accomplishment for my career, fighting in a main event in the UFC and seeing my face on the poster,” Sakai said. “I worked very hard to be here. Now is my time. … We trained a lot to fight for five rounds in this camp, thinking about it all the way. Fans and everyone can expect this to be a great fight. If we reach the championship rounds, I will be ready to keep my rhythm going and keep up with the fight.”
UFC on ESPN+ 34 takes place Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. The event streams on ESPN+.
Check out Sakai’s full UFC on ESPN+ 34 virtual pre-fight media day in the video above.