‘Look, it doesn’t matter. I need a fight. It doesn’t matter what the weight is. Tell him to show up and we’ll fight.’
Early last week, he was informed that his scheduled opponent, Lyle Karam, was ill and may not be able to make weight.
Eager to keep the fight intact, the 26-year-old was willing to fight the undefeated South African at any weight.
Just a few days later and the fight was called off. Fortunately, organisers were able to find a late replacement.
“I’m thankful that Trent [James] was able to find a top Korean replacement,” Vake said.
Vake (12-4) will now face Jun Yong Park (7-3) at 81kg. As the original fight was set for 77kgs, Vake said it means he’ll no longer have to cut weight.
Although short notice, Vake knows Park isn’t just a warm body to fill the card.
“He’s top five in the middleweight and welterweight division in Korea,” he said.
“It’s gonna be an entertaining fight.”
Vake considers their skillsets “very similar”, although, he added, “I’m just a bit better.”
“You don’t get to top five without being able to do everything, so he can strike, he can wrestle, he can do jiu-jitsu.”
Vake believes he has an advantage in each area and expects to be faster, smarter and have better endurance, however he concedes Park will have the size advantage.
“I think he going to come out strong because he’s bigger than me, and he knows it, so he’s gonna try to impose his will pretty quick.”
But for Vake, the game plan is simple.
“I expect to not be there when he wants me to be there, and I expect to hit him and not get hit. And that’s it,” he said.
Vake said that although the fight is short notice for Park, it shouldn’t influence the outcome.
“I don’t feel like there’ll be any excuses on his behalf.”
“He trains at the top MMA club in Korea [Korean Top Team]. They’re pretty much another CKB [City Kickboxing]. They’re training all year round.”
City Kickboxing in Auckland, New Zealand is also home to UFC fighters Dan Hooker and Israel Adesanya, as well as Vake’s two brothers, James and Fau. Their approach to training means Vake is always ready.
“I could fight tomorrow if I needed to.”
Despite the late change, Vake’s confidence is unwavering.
“I’m at a stage where I believe so much in my coaches and in my team,” Vake said. “They point at the guy, I punch him.”
Earlier in his career, Vake used to expect so much from his fights.
“And that expectation, that fear, used to kill me.”
He now focuses on each fight as it comes and isn’t preoccupied with an exact number of fights or years it may take to get signed by the UFC.
“I work and I expect nothing,” Vake said. “I’ll fight. When I make it, I make it.”
If Vake is successful on Friday, there’s only one thing next on the agenda.
Vake says it’s enough of a struggle just to keep a scheduled bout intact, let alone trying to nominate who that opponent might be.
“I ain’t calling anyone out, I just want someone to show up,” he laughed.
In his last fight at Hex Fight Series 12, Vake accepted a late change of opponent whom he ultimately submitted in the first round.
“What I would really like to do, is fight the guy on the poster.”
Hex Fight Series 13 will be held this Friday, March 23 at the Melbourne Pavilion in Victoria, Australia.
It will be aired delayed on Fox Sports Australia and Epicentre.tv will broadcast the event live to viewers outside of Australia.