Decorated Olympic Greco-Roman wrestler Mark Madsen will make his UFC debut on Saturday in his native Denmark. But he still sees himself as a work in progress in advance of the Copenhagen event.

Although he’s well-known in Denmark, Madsen was caught off guard by the huge celebration sparked by the announcement of his lightweight meeting Danilo Belluardo.

“It has been an amazing reaction and I’ve gotten a lot of support,” Madsen told MMA Fighting’s podcast. “It’s just amazing and I’m so happy to be a part of UFC Copenhagen.”

Madsen’s success is even more remarkable considering he hasn’t fully been able to focus on MMA until his official retirement from wrestling 18 months ago. Despite that, he’s been undefeated in eight MMA outings since his 2013 debut.

“I did compete in MMA back in 2013 and 2014, but I was signed to the national wrestling federation, and I wasn’t allowed to do any MMA preparation whatsoever,” he explained.

“I was locked down for six months a year, so I had very little time to do MMA back (then). I only retired [from wrestling] 18 months ago. It’s really been a short time for me to be in MMA, and I’m happy to be signed to the UFC in such a short time.”

Even though he took a silver medal in the 2016 Games and medalled four times at the wrestling world championships, Madsen still feels there’s a lot to be done before he can comfortably compete with the best MMA fighters in the world.

“I have to take huge leaps,” he said. “I just joined the toughest MMA league in the world, and I’ll be facing some of the best MMA fighters out there. I have to take enormous leaps in my development as a mixed martial artist. That’s why I’m here in Vegas, to train with the best in the world. My head coach Martin Kampmann has flown over, and we’ve training at Xtreme Couture so we can do this 100 percent.”

Considering other Greco-Roman athletes that have transitioned to MMA, Madsen aspires to achieve similar successes as legends Randy Couture, Dan Henderson and Matt Lindland.

“The Americans are great at wrestling, especially in freestyle, but they’ve also had some amazing Greco-Roman guys,” he said. “I do believe I’m the most decorated Greco-Roman wrestler ever signed by the UFC when you take a look at my wrestling credentials. That’s one thing, looking back on a very long and impressive Greco-Roman career. Now I’m in MMA, and I can only aspire to accomplish some of the things that my colleagues like Randy, Dan and Matt have done, because they have done really, really well in the sport. I consider them to be true American heroes and legends of the sport.”

Not only is it an honor to fight in the UFC, but the location couldn’t be more significant.

“UFC Copenhagen isn’t only an MMA event – it’s a historic MMA event,” Madsen said. “It’s the first time the UFC has ever come to Denmark. Honestly, I’m just so proud, happy and grateful to be able to take part in the event. I believe it will be an amazing night.”