“Now with a full camp, I’m feeling really healthy, feeling strong. Impa is a great athlete. He’s coming down to 170, I’m welcoming him to the division. He’s never fought there. So it will be interesting to see how he is; how he looks coming in. But, at the same time, like I said earlier, this is the UFC. I only expect the best and that’s what I’m looking for. I want challenges. I’m a problem-solver. It’s going to be a back-and-forth battle, and I think he’s going to really bring it. I’m hoping to put on a fireworks show like we did last time. Everyone liked my last one and I think I can definitely surpass that and I expect to do that on Saturday.”

A 2-0 start in the promotion would be yet another twist-filled chapter in Palatnikov’s long, strange trip to MMA. The son of a professional high-diver, Palatnikov enjoyed a career in professional sports too—rugby—in his native Hong Kong. His pride in his heritage informs most everything he does.

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“Being born and raised in Hong Kong, that’s home. I don’t know any other place. My schooling was there, I represented Hong Kong in rugby, basketball…everything.”

His parents were instrumental in getting him into martial arts at a young age, although not with any intention it would be a career.

“I was a very energetic kid. I had a lot of energy. My parents were told by a family friend that I should get into martial arts just to get me to sleep. They put me in karate at the age of five. I wasn’t a huge fan at the time, I got beat up a little bit. My parents forced me to keep going and I started to fall in love with the sport. I was a competitive karate athlete from the ages of about six to thirteen. Then I transitioned from that into more of a Muay Thai/kickboxing/boxing background. It was never like, ‘Oh, I want to be a professional fighter,” but it was something that I loved to do, and it worked out in the end.”

It certainly did. But even in all those years of training, martial arts was something he did when team sports seasons were over. From afar he admired combat sports stars like Mike Tyson and Fedor Emelianenko, but it was during a college stint in Montreal that things began to change. That was when he first saw Georges St-Pierre. Like many a fan and fighter before him, GSP was the turning point.