In a sport where great fighters can fall hard in a moment’s notice, the fans are eager to greet the newest evolution of the MMA fighter, the next big thing. This Sunday, it’s the phenomenon known as Jon ‘Bones’ Jones who headlines on the Versus channel. But the man he’ll face—Belarusian émigré Vladimir ‘The Janitor’ Matyushenko—sees this as his big chance to add a quality name to his own list of wins.
Among his training partners, he looks no further than Fabricio Werdum, who not only defeated Fedor Emelianenko, but finished him with a first-round submission, for inspiration.
“It just shows that anybody can win—even the underdog. We were actually just talking about it, [Fabricio] was saying, ‘You can win, don’t worry, I was the underdog, too.’”
Vladimir understands the reality of Jones’ 10-1 record, among Jon’s wins are durable journeymen like Stephan Bonnar and Brandon Vera. Even Jones’ sole loss via disqualification to Matt Hamill for using illegal elbows demonstrates the dominance of the 23 year-old fighter rather than any weakness (outside of misunderstanding the rules, that is).
“He’s a strong opponent,” says Matyushenko, “It’s going to be interesting.”
Equally indicative of Vladimir’s own mental toughness is his bout with Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (little Nog) at the January 2009 Affliction show. According to Josh Gross’s column at SportsIllustrated.com, the Belarusian’s groin muscle was torn clean off his pubic bone.
“It was one of the worst injuries that I ever had,” says Vladimir, who took the fight purely for financial reasons, eventually losing via second round knockout.
One would expect excitement at the prospect of being included in the new EA Sports MMA videogame, but Matyushenko is a working man without time for such distractions or hobbies, saying “I’m not a big fan of video games, I don’t really play them. My son does.”
Vladimir was given a flat fee to appear in the game, although now he’s free to sell his likeness to new MMA videogames since the original contract is up.
There’s no ambiguity when asked about which promotion he prefers, “I think the UFC is the best. Right now, I’m really happy to be with it.”
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