Cyprus Mail
Sport

Cypriot fighter Philippou making his mark in UFC

By Andreas Vou

There are a number of talented Cypriot athletes who are creating a huge impact away from home. One of those who fall into that category is Limassol native Costas Philippou, an MMA fighter ranked no.12 in the middleweight rankings who competes in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in the United States.

Along the road to success, there have been plenty of twists and turns, as well as highs and lows, but the bottom line is that Philippou’s career proves that any goal can be achieved regardless of its magnitude or feasibility.

Philippou’s journey to the top really began in 1996 when he met his boxing coach Polis Potamitis. The two became close friends and Potamitis held Philippou in such high regard that he convinced him to move to the United States to pursue a professional boxing career.

Philippou never believed he would get into professional fighting but Potamitis bought him a ticket to travel to New York, which Philippou says changed his life.

Then, another life-changing moment would occur for Philippou. In September 2005, his mentor and best friend Polis was shot and killed in Cyprus. Philippou struggled for a significant period after the incident, recently stating: “I think I was dead for a couple of years after that.”

Soon after moving to the Big Apple, Philippou took part in an amateur boxing tournament called Golden Gloves which he eventually lost in the final at Madison Square Garden by a split decision.

He turned pro shortly thereafter and went on to achieve three consecutive victories, but then opted to quit boxing and turned to Mixed Martial Arts following a dispute with his manager in 2007.

In May 2008, Philippou made his professional MMA debut – becoming the first ever Cypriot to do so – when he competed for what is known as the Ring of Combat promotion which he lost, again by a split decision.

The defeat, however, seemed to buoy the Cypriot after subsequently going on to achieve seven wins and just one defeat en route to promotion.

The Ultimate Fighting Championship, better known as simply UFC, is the largest mixed martial arts organisation in the world which hosts the very best fighters in the industry, based in the United States. Each main event averages around 4million viewers.

Philippou switched to UFC and made his debut in March 2011 but lost out to Nick Catone via a unanimous decision. The defeat did not discourage the Limassol native as he bounced back in the best possible way, winning his next five bouts in a run which stretched from August 2011 to December 2012.

The main ambition of most competitors in individual sports is to become king of the hill, the world-champion. Philippou reached as high as No.5 in the middleweight division in the first half of 2013. However, the Limassol native says he is not too bothered about being the top dog in the sport as he has already surpassed his own expectations.

“They think I’m crazy when I tell them I don’t care,” said Philippou. “Yes, if the title shot comes, good. If not, it is what it is. Even if I don’t get to fight again, I did more than I expected. You’ve got to remember, I came from a totally different sport. I never imagined I would compete in MMA.”

Philippou also mentioned that the fact he came from such a small nation like Cyprus and to become a professional in the United States is a huge achievement in itself, for which he is grateful.

“I am coming from the middle of nowhere, in a huge country that I never expected myself to make it and I made a life for myself. And I can honestly say I’m living a dream.”

Despite losing his last two fights, Philippou is back and feeling better than ever. His next fight is just around the corner as he prepares to take on Lorenz Larkin on May 10 at Cincinnati’s US Bank Arena.

 

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