Punahele Soriano wants to start 2021 off with a bang.
The Kahuku alumnus and men’s MMA middleweight kicks off the main card against Dusko Todorovic at UFC on ABC 1 on Saturday. The card, which will take place on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi, is set to begin at 10 a.m. HST.
UFC on ABC 1 concludes with a featherweight bout between Calvin Kattar and Waianae’s Max Holloway, meaning that Soriano will be the first UFC fighter from the islands to have a bout in 2021.
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Soriano, who has already made the trek to Abu Dhabi in advance of the fight, spends his time training at Xtreme Couture Martial Arts in Las Vegas, along with other fighters from Hawaii such as Dan Ige and Brad Tavares. On top of representing his home state, Soriano also wants to make sure Xtreme Couture starts the new year with a win.
“It excites me a lot. With the team, I think we’re starting at zero. We like to keep a little whiteboard and tally up the wins and losses. I want to be the first win of the year, that would be nice,” Soriano told KHON2 sports director Rob DeMello. “I always like to be a win anyway but to be the first one of the year and get it started off right is gonna feel really good.”
Come fight night, Soriano will be raring to go. The 28-year-old has not fought since UFC 245 on Dec. 14, 2019, making it over a year since his most recent fight. Once he enters the octagon, he hopes to make up for lost time.
Soriano holds an unblemished 7-0 record during his professional MMA career. Saturday will be his second UFC fight, and it also happens to be the second time he’s been on the same card as Holloway. Todorovic is also undefeated in his pro MMA career (10-0) and 1-0 in the UFC.
“It means a lot. Every fight in front of me is the most important fight so with that being said, this is the most important fight of my life and it’s a great opponent,” Soriano said. “Two undefeated guys and I think it’s really gonna set the tone on how far our careers are gonna go.
“I see fireworks. One thing that’s kind of weird to say about my opponent but what I like about him is he’s kind of a dog. He doesn’t mind getting hit and returning it right back and I feel like that kind of adversity and bringing that to the table is only going to make me better and it’s gonna make me elevate my skills.”