The sound of feet hitting the pavement echoes around the streets of the small city of Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland. Gokhan Turkyilmaz is in the middle of his early morning ritual. He’s running.

He braves conditions that not many others generally will. It’s cold. It’s dark. It’s nothing like the postcard weather that he is accustomed to in his native Queensland, Australia. Yet, there is still a sense of warmth. Fighters do what they have to do, and Turkyilmaz is no different. He makes things work.

“It’s summer here now, and the maximum temperature gets to around 18 degrees, but the average day is around 10 degrees,” Turkyilmaz explained to The MMA Corner. “It’s hard, especially coming from Queensland [laughs]. You know, I have to get up for a run in the morning, and getting out of bed when it’s warm and cozy at four or five in the morning, it’s really hard.

“I’ve just been working a lot on my fitness and also my mind focus. That’s the key element for me, and using that as the drive to keep on going, I’m becoming an all-rounder now fighting-wise and not just focusing on one area, just sharpening every aspect as I go along. What’s been happening with me in fight camps is that I have been just focusing on one area. Now, I’ve been broadening everything and working on different areas.”

Although he finds a gym to train at in any country that he visits, there is nothing quite like the gym that he calls home in Brisbane, Australia. He is fortunate to have a crew of high-caliber coaches and teammates to ensure his continued development, not only as a fighter but also as a person.

“[Integrated MMA] is my home-base gym. I regard those guys like family,” Turkyilmaz explained. “I don’t think that I would go to any other gym in Australia, MMA-wise. CrossFit, it’s a little different, but MMA-wise that’s home for me.”

Turkyilmaz will once again compete on the international stage when he meets undefeated Filipino Vaughn Donayre at Global Fighting Championship 3 on May 29 in Dubai. Turkyilmaz is eager to get back-to-back wins on his record again.

“I fought there last year [for GFC] in a four-man tournament, and I lost at welterweight. I won the first round and then lost the second on points to a Brazilian black belt,” Turkyilmaz explained. “Dubai is amazing. I’ve traveled pretty much everywhere, and it’s one of my favorite places to go and see and experience. It’s a different culture and an experience, and that’s a key thing to be able to keep [fighting] while I’m traveling. I love to travel and fight, and for me it’s living a dream. When I end up settling down, with a wife and kid and stuff like that, I don’t have to look back and say, ‘I wish I did that.’ It’s the opportunity now, and I’ve gotta grab the opportunity and do it while I can.

“This year will probably be my last year of backpacking and fighting. So, I’ll probably go back to Australia and settle down, but I’m always open to international fights whenever. It’s not easy [traveling]. I’m kinda funding it along with sponsor money and fight money, as well as my partner. And she’s a musician, so she needs a stable ground, unless she wants to be a gypsy [laughs], so it’s not easy.”

In his last bout on Australian soil, Turkyilmaz defeated Alex MacDonald, who had been riding a four-fight winning streak. MacDonald was quickly making a name for himself in Australia, and Turkyilmaz, in true fashion, wanted to test himself against an eager up-and-comer.

“I knew he was going to be a tough opponent and I looked up to the kid,” Turkyilmaz admitted. “But I also knew that he hasn’t been tested. For me, I bring the fight. I executed my game plan. I didn’t expect to knock him out, but now, for the rest of my fights from now on, I don’t wanna just keep it as a ground game and that’s it. I wanna go in and focus on finishing it in the first or second round. I was hoping to fight on the next Nitro for the lightweight title. I always say that I wanna fight the best and the top-ranked guys at lightweight in Australia, whoever is there. I don’t go for titles or names or anything like; I just wanna fight.”

With a vast array of experience in combat sports, Turkyilmaz knows exactly what it takes, both physically and mentally, to be a fighter. Recently, he has been holding passing on knowledge to up-and-coming fighters, and it’s something that he plans to continue doing, especially when he makes his way back to Australia.

“I’ve been doing some Muay Thai and competing seminars. I’ve had over 80 fights with Muay Thai and MMA,” he explained. “It’s for the younger guys and the up-and-coming guys, just talking to them about how to compete and how to prepare yourself and dedicating themselves to it. Just little bits and pieces, like you can’t go to the gym once or twice a week and expect to fight professionally. It’s been an experience for me, too. I learn from teaching seminars myself. I’ve got a long way to go myself. It’s a never-ending road, this MMA game.”

Another stint in another country is just another day in the life of Turkyilmaz. The rhythm of his feet on the pavement continues as he runs. It might be cold and dark, but Turkyilmaz won’t let that keep him from making the most of his journey.

Gokhan would like to thank Inside Ink, Tank Hoodwear, FTP Clothing, H + R Healing Hands, Boss Fitness, Revolute Movement Academy, Shogun Fight Team & Ben Livingstone, Phuket Top Team, Integrated MMA and his partner, Vedis. Follow Turkyilmaz on Twitter: @Gpt86

About The Author

Staff Writer, Australia

Located in Queanbeyan, New South Wales, Neil Rooke has been writing about the sport of MMA since 2011. In the past, Neil has written for Cage Junkies and has written for Fight! Magazine as well as Fist! Fight Magazine. Neil is also a regular contributor to Fight! Magazine Australia and Yahoo! Sports Singapore.