German welterweight David Zawada returns to the cage at Oktagon 33 this weekend, fighting for the first time since parting ways with the UFC.
Zawada (17-7) has been paired up with the 10-1 Erhan Kartal at the event, which also sees the finals of Oktagon Challenge, an Ultimate Fighter style series on which Zawada served as a coach, alongside brother and fellow fighter Martin Zawada.
The chance to serve as a coach was a welcome opportunity for Zawada, who works with amateurs in his gym. It was also part of the allure of signing with Oktagon.
“Yes of course,” he told Cageside Press in a recent exclusive interview. “I work as a coach in our UFC Gym. It didn’t change too much for me, because this is what I do. I coach my amateurs, and also one of my guys came from the amateurs and now goes to the pros.”
Getting the chance to see a fighter he’s coached fight in the Oktagon Challenge final is one of the payoffs this weekend. Getting to compete in his native Germany is another — the card goes down in Frankfurt on June 4.
“The sport here in Germany, it’s growing up,” Zawada observed.
David Zawada has done some growth of his own, following time off after fighting in his final UFC bout in September of last year. “The release [from the UFC] came in like February,” he explained. “I had to wait over the holidays, so I had a little bit of time with the family and stuff like this.”
That time off afforded Zawada the chance to reflect on what had gone wrong in his past couple of fights, and tweak things in his training. Having shored up his game, he can now focus on Kartal, who he sees as a dangerous striker.
“I think he’s more comfortable in the stand-up,” Zawada told us. “I see he’s dangerous, he has heavy hands, so striking, it could be dangerous.”
“I’m ready for everything. I can’t forget the ground; if it happens, it will change the game,” he continued. Just a week out from the fight, Zawada added that he plans to show he’s a “complete MMA fighter” in the bout. “If it will be too dangerous for me in the striking, I will take him down, change the game. That’s my plan, to show the crowd a real mixed martial arts type game. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Zawada’s nickname should get the attention anyone who grew up in the 90s or early 2000s. “Sagat” is well known as Street Fighter character, dating back to the original arcade game in 1991. So how did the German fighter pick up the moniker?
“It’s actually a funny story,” Zawada told us — one that dates back to his very first fight in 2010. “I was really an underdog. I had no hair on my head, and I had like Muay Thai shorts. And some guy recorded it with his phone, my first fight. I knocked this guy [his opponent] out, and when a friend of mine saw this on the phone— it wasn’t too many angles, only one camera, not professional filming, but just on the phone — he looked at me and said ‘hey, man, this looks like a game, this looks like Street Fighter and you look like Sagat.’”
“There was something about this, because in our childhood, we play a lot of Super Nintendo and stuff like this,” Zawada continued. “Street Fighter was also one the games that we played.”
In the end, he got a kick out of the concept, and decided to keep it as his nickname. “I also like striking, and I thought it’s a funny story, so I took it.”
David Zawada faces Erhan Kartal this Saturday, June 4, 2022 at the Festhalle in Frankfurt, Germany.
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