by Mitch Gobetz – MMAWeekly.com
Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou has been the hottest fighter to come into mixed martial arts this year.

Seemingly coming out of nowhere, the African Assassin blasted into Pride 33 against MMAWeekly.com’s No. 10 ranked light heavyweight, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira as an overwhelming underdog. When the fight started, you could see that he was going to bring it to Nogueira. It took him only 23 seconds to knockout the Brazilian.

While many fans thought that the Nogueira finish could have been a lucky punch, Sokoudjou then went into Pride 34 against MMAWeekly.com’s No. 9 ranked light heavyweight Ricardo Arona. Lightening struck twice as Sokoudjou knocked out Arona in less than two minutes.

While Sokoudjou is already a candidate for fighter of the year, he could be facing his toughest test this weekend against when he makes his Ultimate Fighting Championship debut against the undefeated Lyoto Machida. With a win over Machida, he would surely be the frontrunner for fighter of the year.

Sokoudjou recently stopped by MMAWeekly Radio to discuss his upcoming fight with Machida.

“Everything has gone well. I’m excited. I can’t wait to get in the cage.”

When the Fertittas purchased Pride, it seemed as if Sokoudjou’s future would not be in the UFC. He had strong offers from both K-1 and EliteXC, but in the end, signed with the juggernaut that is the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

“Well, pretty much, they had an offer and the UFC is the biggest organization in the world,” said Sokoudjou of his decision.

With his last fight coming in April, some people may be concerned with the eight-month layoff, but the fighter from Cameroon isn’t worried. He’s already prepared for two fights.

“Well, as of today, I would have had two fights (that) I’ve trained (for) that I never had. I’ve been training for fights.”

Former Pride fighters haven’t come in the UFC and dominated in the way many fans thought they would. After all, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic and even Dan Henderson have lost in the Octagon. Those worries don’t seem to faze Sokoudjou though.

“A fight is a fight. Whether it’s in Pride, the UFC or in my backyard.”

Even though the fans have only been exposed to Sokoudjou’s knockout power, many people forget that he is a top-level judoka. However, he isn’t looking to just go into a fight and practice judo.

“This is MMA,” he explained. “I won’t go there and just do judo. But in an MMA fight you got to make sure you do the right things in the fight. I would love to go there and do some judo, but as far as strategy-wise, I got to make sure that I do whatever I need for the victory.”

While some fighters don’t develop game plans prior to a fight, Sokoudjou watches tapes and studies every opponent.

“You have to know what you are getting yourself into.”

If Sokoudjou were to win this fight against Machida, it is likely he could find himself as one of the top contenders in the light heavyweight division. While most fighters look to get a title shot as soon as possible, he is content in learning more from the game and putting himself in the best possible position to win the title when his time does arrive.

“I’m at the beginning of my career. I’m still learning. I don’t put myself in the place where I come in and say I want a title shot,” stated Sokoudjou. “All I need is experience and a bunch of fights, and I’ll go from there.

“A title shot, if it comes, it’s just the same, but I just want to get there to learn how to be a better fighter. I want to make sure when I do have one that I don’t lose.”