On September 29th, Cage Warriors hit Cardiff for their biggest event ever, and topping the card is a huge bantamweight title fight between hometown hero Jack Shore and Germany’s Oemer Cankardesler.
Cankardesler stepped up to face Shore on just two weeks notice and is now on the cusp of the biggest opportunity of his career. In this exclusive interview, we caught up with him to find out how he’s preparing to steal the title away from Wales and launch his name into the spotlight.
At just three years old, Oemer Cankardesler and his family moved from Iraqi Kurdistan to Germany to build a better life. Thirty years later, Cankardesler’s grit and fighting spirit has led him to a history-making opportunity: to represent Germany in one of the biggest European MMA title fights of 2018.
Sipping his coffee with the cold determination of a man who believes his time has come, Cankardesler answered our questions with quiet confidence.
For him, the grind never stops.
“The call came as a surprise, but I’m always in training and always fit. I don’t have off seasons,” says Cankardesler. “You never know when you’ll get the call so you have to stay ready.
“This is just another day and another fight. I’m ready for everything. If he makes a mistake I will finish it early, but if we make this a long one then so be it. It can end this in the first minute or or the twenty first minute.”
Much to the dismay of fans across Germany, the country hasn’t managed to keep up with the rise of MMA, and negative perceptions of the sport are still widespread. For Oemer, this has meant less exposure and opportunities than he’d have liked.
Live MMA is banned in Oemer’s home town of Frankfurt, meaning fighting on German events involves long drives and long nights.
“People see the cage and can’t look past it,” he says. “The sport is growing of course, but MMA is very much a community and still operates in close circles. There’s nothing on TV. It still has a grass roots feel and I’m hoping with more German’s getting big European-level fights, that will change.
“My brother and my family said I was crazy.
“The first time they actually came to watch my fights, they had a new found respect for what we do. They saw that we put our life into this. The sport is changing their mind.
Now my brother comes every time. I hope that this change in perception will happen across the country.”
Oemer Cankardesler’s chance to propel his name into the top European ranks comes on September 29th, when he’ll perform in front of thousands at Cardiff’s Ice Arena and even more on TV worldwide.
In his way is Jack Shore, one of the most talked-about prospects in Europe.
“He’s a fighter for the future,” says Cankardesler. “But this is my time.
“We’re ready in all areas. He’s good everywhere but can be stopped. My coaches have seen holes in their game. We see this.
But ultimately it’s better to study your strengths than spend too much time watching your opponent, which is exactly what I do. No one’s finished him yet. But I will.”
When asked if he thinks his superior age and experience will play a part, Oemer shrugged off the idea of cage time being a major factor.
“I don’t think my experience will play too much of a part, I just come to win. It’s my only goal. I don’t think to much about trying to impart my experience on him, I’ll just get the finish.”
In Frankfurt, Germany, 🇩🇪 Oemer Cankardesler is gearing up for war! 👊
— Cage Warriors (@CageWarriors) September 17, 2018
With such a crystal-clear goal in mind, Oemer was hardly enticed by the opportunity of the massive world fame that certain ex-Cage Warriors Champions, including Conor McGregor, reached after winning the belt. “I focus only on the next fight every time,” he said. “The Cage Warriors title is the only thing on my mind right now. I don’t look too much into the future.”
Lights, cameras and fame paled in comparison to Oemer’s clear love for his country and his team, both of which have sculpted him into the fighter he is today.
“The big fighters and the TV names are great, but how often do I see those guys in life? Never. Our team train and fight together. That’s more powerful.
“My idols are my teammates. I see how they train everyday and we inspire each other to do big things.”
This is a man with unwavering focus, who doesn’t have long to wait until it’s time to put his preparation to the test.
Oemer Cankardesler faces Jack Shore at the Cardiff Ice Arena on September 29th. With just over a week until fight night, less than 5% of tickets are available and can be purchased here.