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Aleksander Rakic explains celebration before final round ended

"I saw, OK, seven seconds left and so I go, OK, I’m going to stand up and celebrate a little bit."
Aleksandar Rakic

Saturday's UFC on ESPN+ 33 started out with four submission finishes in a row, but those were followed with six decisions. Anthony Smith in the main event and Robbie Lawler in the co-main each appeared for significant periods to be performing a level more akin to sparring rather than fighting at the top of a global event. Lawler's losing streak extended to three, and Smith's to two.

The event closed with winner Aleksandar Rakic standing up to celebrate, seven seconds before the round actually ended. At the post-fight press conference, defended his antics.

“I love to do a little bit of a show, but only if I deserve it, and I think I deserved to put on a show like this,” argued Rakic. “I saw the clock, and I saw, OK, seven seconds left and so I go, OK, I’m going to stand up and celebrate a little bit. Because he was already done. He was already done. He didn’t even want to stand up, and then he stood up. It’s the fight business, but we also want to give something for the audience.”

“I worked hard on my wrestling and putting pressure on him. I made him really tired. I heard in the second and third how he was breathing heavy. The plan was, don’t rush and don’t go for the submissions. If he gave me something really, really, then I’d go for it. The goal was to dominate, put pressure, and to win.”

With the departure of former champ Jon Jones from the light heavyweight division, Jan Blachowicz and Dominick Cruz and will fight for the vacated belt at UFC 253 on September 26. Rakic wants the winner. He has never competed in a five-round main event and some argue that that test in a non-title context should come first; Rakic said he's game.

“I made a great performance tonight, and I think I’m the next for the title,” he said. “But if the UFC wants to see me in a five-round fight, they can do it. I was preparing for a three-round fight, but put on this great performance tonight, and I could go another two rounds with no problems. I was ready for five. Can you imagine me getting ready for a five-round fight with this pace? It’s amazing. We’re going to see what the UFC plans for me next. I’m going to be ready.”

“I think the hardest challenge for me would be Dominick Reyes. He fought a very good fight against Jones. He’s fighting for the title with Jan. Both guys deserve a title shot. But Thiago, Glover, and Jan are very strong athletes, and they are here in the top for a reason.”

h/t Steven Marrocco for MMA Fighting