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JJ Okanovich

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JJ Okanovich: The Bosnian Bomber

They call him the Bosnian Bomber. JJ Okanovich is not from Bosnia, but he does have Bosnian heritage; His parents are Bosnian. The nickname was given to him by one of his teammates’ first coaches. “[When I first started] I had no technique, I would just go in there and throw bombs,” Okanovich said. “He knew I was Bosnian so he started calling me the Bosnian Bomber and it’s stuck ever since.”

‘There’s actually another fighter [in the UFC], and supposedly his nickname is also so the Bosnian bomber, so we might have to duke it out and fight for our name,” Okanovich joked.

Currently riding a six-fight win streak (6-1), and having not lost a fight since his pro debut in 2015, Okanovich looks to earn a UFC contract on July 23, when he fights on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series against 24-year-old Christian Lohsen. Lohsen, a BJJ Brown Belt under Cesar Gracie, carrying a 7-1 record, is coached by his father, David Lohsen. The elder Lohsen is a Black Belt under Cesar Gracie. Lohsen’s mother, Melissa Lohsen, is also a Black Belt under Cesar Gracie. They are all part of one gym, called DarkWolfMMA out in Deland, Florida. To say the least, this is not a family you’d ever want to pick a fight with.

“I have a lot of high-level amateur fights,” Okanovich said. “So, what people don’t realize is that my record is actually 17-4 overall. Some of my amateur fights were actually harder than some of the high-level professional fights that these guys have gotten. So, being 17-4 overall, I think I’m ready for the big show.”

Stylistically, this looks to have the makings of a great fight. Both Okanovich and Lohsen are very strong on the ground. Almost all of Okanovich’s wins have come by submission, and all but one of Lohsen’s seven victories have come by submission as well. To make things even more exciting, Okanovich has a knack for finishing fights. Of his six victories, only one made it past the second round, and of Lohsen’s seven victories, just the same, all but one made it past the second round. In fact, of his seven victories, only one made it past the first round.

“I think I’m just a finisher, Okanovich said. I’m a punisher and I’m a finisher. So, I think I punish, and they don’t like it so it goes to the ground and then I finish. So, I would call myself a finisher.”

Okanovich has not fought in over a year, another wrinkle to the fight. “I remember being scheduled for one show, and I had five opponents drop out, and ended up not fighting that show,” Okanovich said. In addition, Okanovich also took some time to heal up from injury and spends a chunk of his time running his own HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air-Conditioning) business.

Some other prominent fighters to have second jobs are Al Iaquinta (Real Estate Agent), Holly Holm (Real Estate Agent) and Stipe Miocic (Firefighter). That’s pretty good company. And when you think about the fact Georges St Pierre was once a garbage man (yes, look it up), and Conor McGregor used to be a plumber, Okanovich is doing very well for himself, setting himself up for success not just inside, but outside the Octagon as well.

Okanovich trains out of American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, also known as AKA. It’s home to some of the best talent the UFC has to offer, with the likes of UFC Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, Double Champ Daniel Cormier, former Middleweight Champion Luke Rockhold, former Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez, and many more.

“Training with them, it’s upped my wrestling and Jiu-Jitsu game, and it’s also upped my striking game,” Okanovich said.

With so many champions and straight up winners that train at AKA, you might ask, is there a secret sauce?

“I think that starts with the coaches,” Okanovich said. “Jav (Javier Mendez; Striking Coach at AKA) and Bob Cook (Head Coach at AKA) and Hector (Hector Fernandez; AKA Coach), it’s that mentality they give us. It’s the ‘kill mode’ mentality. Go in there and kill.” “Also Daniel Cormier, they make sure we work on everything, not just our strengths, but working on our weaknesses.”

Even with their own media commitments, extracurricular activities, families, and lives outside of fighting, Okanovich said that guys like DC and Khabib are “in the gym, grinding every day, even more so than the young hungry guys.”

“To get to that level you have to be hungry, but to stay there you have to be even hungrier,” Okanovich said. “Watching them, as hungry as they are, only motivates us young guys who are up and coming, and we have to have a mentality just like that.”

Lack of hunger is a phrase that has been thrown out a lot with guys like Conor McGregor, who most people believe isn’t hungry anymore, thus why he hasn’t achieved the same level of success that he had when he fought the likes of Mendes, Aldo, and Alvarez.

Training with Khabib and his guys from Russia, Okanovich had a front row seat to what was going on behind the scenes with Khabib when he was preparing to fight McGregor. To make matters brief, Okanovich assured me that Khabib jumping over the cage was something that was not planned, not talked about, etc. There wasn’t any stewing during practices. If Khabib was angry, he hid it very well. As well, Zubaira Tukhugov and Abubakar Nurmagomedov did not plan to punch McGregor or any of his teammates after the fight. Okanovich stated that it was simply a build up of all the trash talk, that McGregor simply crossed a line. The incident happened organically, emotions simply boiled over. He assured me that guys like Khabib, Zubaira and Abubakar are some of the nicest guys around, but they’re from the country, and they don’t take personal attacks very lightly. It’s one thing to talk trash, but it was clear to Okanovich that McGregor took it too far, which is the general consensus that the majority of people had with an outside look at the events that transpired.

Speaking of Khabib’s ‘band of brothers’, Okanovich says that Khabib has been nice enough to bring them over from Russia, and training rounds with these guys has elevated his game even more. “I’m getting good rounds with his whole family,” Okanovich said. These Russian are just beasts. Iron sharpens iron.”

“I’ve been working with the best in the world for quite a while now, so I think I’m on the road to becoming one of the best in the world.”

The hype for this fight is real, and Okanovich is ready to step up. “I don’t think I’ve ever worked this hard for a fight,” Okanovich said. “Hopefully, we can push it and get the win in the first thirty seconds.”

Jorge Masvidal owns the UFC record for the fastest KO, knocking out previously undefeated welterweight Ben Askren in five seconds on July 6 at UFC 229. In reality, it was basically three seconds. It took around two seconds for referee Herb Dean to get Masvidal off of Askren.

Still, with all the confidence one can have, Okanovich stays humble at all times. “Nothing is guaranteed,” Okanovich said. “I like to think my opponent is coming in there hungry. It’s going to be one hell of a fight.”

“I just want to go in there and showcase that I am well-rounded and that I do deserve to be in the UFC,” Okanovich said. “Especially with the caliber of guys who I train with, I know that I could beat a lot of the guys in the UFC.”

If he does get a UFC contract, Okanovich says he definitely wants to stay busy. “I’m trying to get this contract and fight once a month if I can,” Okanovich said. I want to close out this year with a lot of fights. I want to continue that into next year and get my run into the top-15 hopefully soon. I think I’m one of the top guys.” “I’m going to take whoever they put in front of me. Whoever is against me, I’m going to take them out one by one. I don’t care who I fight, I just want someone who’s going to show up.”

Short notice or not, it honestly doesn’t matter to Okanovich. “I always stay in shape, so if the money’s right, I’m down to fight.”

Strap in and get ready for some fireworks, ladies and gentleman. The Bomb Squad has arrived.

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