Fresh off a second round TKO victory in his Professional Fighters League (PFL) debut in April, Australia’s Rob Wilkinson (14-2) is as motivated as ever to get another stoppage win when he returns to the cage to fight Viktor Pesta (18-7) this weekend.
The Saturday morning bout (Australian time) will form part of the PFL 4 event, which will feature the final round of the PFL Regular Season bouts for the Lightweight and Light Heavyweight divisions.
Wilkinson enters the bout in a strong position of third place in the Light Heavyweight standings, having earned five of a possible six points in his last outing against Bruce Souto (15-4). Needing to finish in the top four to progress to the playoffs, a Wilkinson victory will most likely guarantee him a spot.
Pesta offers a unique test for Wilkinson, who originally competed at Heavyweight. This means this will be one of the first times that the 190cm Tasmanian will be the smaller fighter.
The 31 year old, much like Wilkinson has plenty of experience fighting around the world for some of the biggest MMA promotions, having competed under the UFC banner five times between 2014 and 2017.
“He used to fight Heavyweight, so he’s definitely one of the bigger, stronger guys in the division which kind of excites me,” Wilkinson told The Inner Sanctum.
“I’ve been, especially at Middleweight but also at Light Heavyweight, the bigger fighter, so I am excited to be slightly smaller.”
While complementary of Pesta’s experience, Wilkinson believes he will have the advantage from a skills perspective, with a much more well-rounded game leading to more avenues to victory.
“I think he’s quite basic. He uses mainly boxing, he throws a couple of low kicks, occasioning shots and tries to control on top,” he said.
“I haven’t seen too much of a submission game from him, but I think I’m just going to be too quick for him and I have too many different options and ways to win the fight.”
With the way the PFL scoring system works, a win is worth three points and bonus points are then awarded for finishing bouts through knockout or submission in certain rounds. Since Pesta lost his last bout via first-round knockout, the Czech Republic native needs an early finish to be any chance of making the playoffs, something that Wilkinson has considered.
“With the points system, he’s got to come out and get a first-round finish to have any chance of going into the Playoffs. So I am wondering if he will come out a bit more aggressive and attack more than usual,” Wilkinson said.
“My goal is the belt, and I am confident against anyone they put against me.
“I am feeling good, I didn’t get injured or anything from my last fight, so I’ve been able to go straight into my next camp and just keep improving and sharpening my tools.”
With both fighters having high finishing rates throughout their careers, Wilkinson believes that this fight will not see the final bell.
“Out of my 16 fights, only one of them has gone to decision. So by those stats, you can probably guess it’s not going to go to the judges,” he said.
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Following his first PFL fight, the Australian opted to remain in the United States as he prepares for Pesta, training at Factory X under the guidance of Mark Montoya.
“After I fought in Dallas I flew to Denver and I have been training at Factory X with the head coach here Mark Montoya,” Wilkinson said.
“Mark has been a really good coach. He has got some really high-level guys and some good guys my size and my weight.
“I am staying here most likely for the rest of the tournament, but we will see how we go, one step at a time.”
Wilkinson felt that remaining in the US was a necessity, due in part to the unpredictability of overseas travel as the world moves on from the pandemic.
“I had a friend call me up and ask what I was planning on doing and I kind of thought I would want to stay over in America,” Wilkinson said.
“I didn’t want to have to fly in and out every seven or eight weeks and get over the jetlag.
“With everything going on with COVID, I wanted to make sure I didn’t get stuck somewhere and wasn’t able to get to one of my fights and miss out on an opportunity.”
The PFL has already announced that their next fights will take place in New York, meaning if Wilkinson can secure a spot in the Playoffs, he will get the opportunity to fight at Madison Square Garden, fulfilling a lifetime dream.
“Fighting at Madison Square Garden would be one off my bucket list to tick off, it would be extremely exciting to do that,” Wilkinson said.
“It’s only seven weeks after this fight, so it’s a quick turnaround. Even more reason to put him away early to go home without any injuries and get ready for the next one.”
Wilkinson vs Pesta takes place on June 18 in Australia, with MMA fans able to catch all the action from the PFL live on Stan Sport from 9am EST.
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