“I think it’s just like the old school,” Hermansson said. “They had the jiu-jitsu guys using the closed guard and keeping it tight, and back then, they just wanted to push off and start hitting with hard punches from there, like Tito and Mark Coleman. Today, people are so good at standing up that most of the fighters can’t handle that. They need to create space for ground-and-pound and when they do that, people pop up. So they have to stay so close that they don’t have any power in their punches at all.”
In response, the 29-year-old has spent countless hours in the gym with his coaches and teammates at Frontline Academy going back in order to move forward. The result is a ground-and-pound attack that he’s been able to use with frightening efficiency and that he will likely pull out this Saturday in Sao Paulo for his main card matchup against Brazil’s Thiago Santos.
“When they focus on the wrong things, I do something else,” he said. “I try to use my jiu-jitsu very fluidly with my ground-and-pound game, and people don’t know how to handle that yet. Many people don’t work that technically in that part of the game and that gives me an advantage. I think you’re going to see more of it in the future, but right now, I don’t think there’s anybody in the UFC that can work that kind of game like I do.”
He may be right, with his smooth transitions and thudding punches combining to put him on the verge of the top 15 at 185 pounds. And while some may think he fell out of the sky and into the Octagon when he made his UFC debut in late 2016, this has been a process that has taken over seven years. But now, he can start to see daylight.
“I’m living my dream right now,” he said. “I can see that ultimate goal of the title and it’s getting closer and closer. I feel very happy to be in the position I’m in right now, and I’m enjoying the life of a fighter.”
That life includes having what may be the best looking passport in the business, as his pro journey has taken him to England, Jordan, the United States, Denmark, Italy, Germany and Mexico.
“You never get used to it,” he said. “Every time you travel, it’s a new experience, but it’s fun, though, so I enjoy it.”
This weekend, he’s in Sao Paulo for the second time, looking to erase the memory of his lone UFC loss there to Cezar Ferreira last November. At this point for Hermansson, traveling is part of the gig, as pro MMA is illegal in Norway. There is reason for optimism, though, as last year saw the ban on pro boxing get lifted, clearing the way for undisputed welterweight champion Cecilia Braekhus to pack arenas in her adopted home country. Hermansson hopes to have the same good fortune eventually.
“We have the Norwegian MMA Federation working to make it happen for us as well,” he said. “And it would be awesome. I live in Oslo, so to have a fight in the city where I live would be amazing. That’s one thing on my checklist to do in my career.”
As for the rest of that checklist, expect “The Joker” to start filling in those squares soon enough.
“All the parts of my game have been working in training, and I think I’m finally getting through now and making it happen in the fights as well,” Hermansson said. “I just needed some time to mature in the cage and it feels like I’m there now. So hopefully I can perform like that in all my fights now.”