‘I Thought I Was Khabib’

During times of increased stress (or increased excitement), David Bruce Banner turns into the Hulk. Similarly, Scott Howard transforms into a teenage werwolf. As for UFC welterweight Punahele Soriano, he nearly found himself growing an “afro” and “speaking Dagestan.”

It’s a bird! It’s plane! It’s … Khabib Nurmagomedov?!?

“I thought I was Khabib,” Soriano said after his dominant (and wrestle-heavy) decision victory over Miguel Baeza at UFC Louisville. “I thought I had a big afro on my head, and I was going to come out speaking Dagestan or whatever they speak. I wasn’t sure who I was anymore.”

Now I understand why his nickname is “Story Time.”

“The whole camp, I felt so much pressure,” Soriano revealed. “Every day, I was contemplating whether I could still do this, whether if this is for me and if I could deal with this. Fight week, for whatever reason, I had the ultimate confidence. I was supremely confident, no added pressure and I believed in myself.”

The victory over Baeza snapped a two-fight losing streak.

“I was contemplating retirement backstage,” Soriano continued. “Thanks to my man Mike at the (UFC Performance Institute), I just let go of that balloon and started thinking about something I cared about, like my wife and my dogs, anything that I loved, ultimately reminding myself that I love this sport and love what I do.”

Soriano, 31, improved to 10-4 with the win at UFC Louisville and now stands at 4-4 inside the Octagon after graduating Dana White’s “Contender Series” back in June 2019. Expect to see the all-action Hawaiian back inside the cage at some point toward the end of the year.

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