Q: “fights without rules” (nhb), is it really what the expression means – anything goes? Because in reality, there’s quite a few rules. What do you think – are they “soft” or “hard”?
A: In “mixfights” you are not allowed to hit below the belt, you cannot hit the back of the head or the spine. Any action against the eyes is also forbidden, as well as biting etc. You also cannot hit the back. In reality – there’s quite a few rules. But more importantly are the referees; they are specialists in the ring that are ready to interfere at any moment.
Personally, I’m happy with all of that. The rules are a lot softer than in our sambo. In mixfighting you cannot head butt or hit the groin – which is allowed in combat sambo.
Q: There’s a saying amidst fighters – “the winner’s the first one to hit the chin”…
A: No, it’s not accurate. If the athlete is counting on that… well actually it’s possible, but it is not the right expression. The winner’s the first one to land on the chin yes, but you need to land it. And in order to accurately do that, you must know the strengths of the opponent. And his weaknesses.
Q: What are your weaknesses?
A: I do not talk about my weaknesses, I work on them.
Q: I can imagine how attentively your opponents study your weaknesses…
A: They probably do study them. I obviously do have weaknesses… but… No, I won’t tell them. (laugh).
A: I try to improve in all directions, training in all aspects. As far as key strengths… I’ll give you an example: Mirko Cro Cop. He was destroying everybody with his left foot. He hit with it in a way that people were being knocked out. When he started putting everything on that key strength, he lost.
I believe that a fighter has his favorite techniques, but he cannot focus on just that, instead he should always go forward. So that he can always be unpredictable during the fight. There are fighters that try to focus on their striking technique. There are fighters that try to do anything possible to get the fight to the ground – they all lack well roundedness; they all miss some part of the game.
Chuck Liddell, the ex-LHW champion of the UFC used to always focus more on his striking technique. He also wrestled of course, but always tried to stay away from the ground because he could lose. Randy Couture – lacks submissions and doesn’t have the best striking technique.
Q: Did you have any key fights, specific “enemies”? The kind that would make a new impact on your life? Say Cro Cop, who had knocked out your brother before fighting you (Aleksander Emelianenko also competes in mixfighting).
A: They’re not enemies, they are opponents. Opponents in a sport. I have never had enemies. As far as attacks leading up to a fight, I do not care about them. It’s a typical custom, to create intrigue leading up to the fight. They are there to create intrigue for the audience. I do not pay attention to that.
Q: How do you feel about your opponents?
A: I respect them.
Q: Without exceptions?
A: Without exceptions.
A: Our sport is still very young; it has yet to pick up the power that it has abroad. Over there the championships have been going on for a couple of decades. Over here we have a few amateur sports. Combat sambo, hand to hand combat. But as far as professionally - the guys aren’t competing. I know a lot of fans that have been watching the fights in the UFC, “mixed fighting”, they were loving it but… there were no organizers, no organizations and no support. Personally I don’t know how it is over there, but over here if you want to show a good fight on TV, you need money. And not only money, but very serious money. Viewers around the world are interested, but the management of the Russian channels isn’t.
Q: You’ve been living in Stary Oskol ever since your childhood. Typically though, world class fighters try to move say to Germany, or the USA – where they train better and the payouts are bigger…
A: The training isn’t better in neither Germany nor the USA. And the payout does not play a role – the payment is predetermined and where I train does not influence it in any way.
Q: Then why do they leave?
A: <silence>… Because they forget where they are from, and what their flags are.
Q: You clearly do not forget what flags are yours. What are your thoughts on the Ukraine?
A: I always remember that I was born in the Ukraine. My grandmother, my grandfather, my relatives are there. I was born in the USSR, at that point in time the country was not separated. Today we live in different countries, but to me that makes no difference. I consider myself Russian first and foremost. All my childhood and youth I spent in Stary Oskol, I visited my grandparents during the summer. I do not separate the countries, I’m not a politician, it doesn’t matter to me.
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