The Janitor reflects on what a long, strange trip it's been

by Kirik Jenness |

Light heavyweight Vladimir "The Janitor" Matyushenko, 43, laid his gloves in the cage Friday night, following a loss to Joey Beltran at Bellator 116 at the Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, California. 

A former Soviet national wrestling champion, Vladdy defected to the West, speaking no English. He won Juco nationals in 1996 and 1997, and graduated from the University of Nevada in 1999.

That same year he became an MMA fighter, winning three fights in one night. 

"Three fights in one night," he recalled. "And I'll tell ya, I didn't get hit at all... but my hands were freakin' swollen from just hitting the guys."

He went 4-3 during his latest UFC run, which ended just six months ago. He was the IFL light heavyweight champion, going undefeated in the league. During his first run the UFC, Matyushenko worked his way to a title shot vs. Tito Ortiz. He holds wins over Yuki Kondo, Antônio Rogério Nogueira, Pedro Rizzo, Carlos Barreto, Tim Boetsch, and Igor Pokrajac among many others.

The rise of mixed martial arts has seen a rise in the talent of writers covering, sometimes gracing the sport. Ben Fowlkes does remarkable work for MMAJunkie, seemingly every dayJeff Wagenheim for SI could write a truly compelling grocery shopping list. Loretta Hunt, also for SI, is another must read if you love MMA. 

To this list add Shaun Al-Shatti for MMAFighting. Friday he took one last drive with Vladdy Matushenko, from West Los Angeles to Temecula. It's beautiful.

"I remember talking to some top MMA promoters, including Dana White and those guys, Joe Silva -- nobody thought it was going to grow this big," Matyushenko says. "In a way, it's a miracle.

"Now there's a lot more that goes into it. It's becoming more sophisticated. And in a way, I like this, because it's not brawling anymore. It's not just guys coming from the bar, getting drunk and saying ‘let's fight.' It's a science.

"MMA, I think, is the hardest language to speak. You can go between Russian and Chinese or whatever -- but MMA, it's like an alien language."


"The wildest story is when I broke my nose," said Matyushenko. "I went to fight in Brazil against Carlos Barreto. He was a big huge guy, and I don't know what my manager was thinking. He was like, no, you're going to get this guy. The guy is like 265, on steroids. I just watched him hitting pads and he's breaking these pads, like... dude, okay, I'm going to fight him?

"He kicked me as hard as he could. I remember my hands were up. Whack! Broke my nose. He freakin' tore his knee! He fell down and had torn his knee just because he had kicked so hard! He just falls down and I'm looking around like, what the hell just happened? After that we go in an ambulance, this little tiny ambulance, and they put the sirens on. In Brazil nobody cares, they're all cutting in front of us. We're both laying in back of the ambulance, and I'm like, man, is this a dream or something?"


"Maybe I was procrastinating too, or maybe I should have retired earlier. But it's fun to fight. People watch you on TV, people recognize you in public places and say hi. It's a good time.

"It doesn't matter who it is, when they raise your hand, that's the best feeling in the world. A lot of fighters, we fight just for that feeling. Not for the money or the fame or whatever, but just that feeling, it's very addictive. And when the referee raises your hand, and all the audience is clapping, it's... wow."

Other members of the old guard, the Randy Coutures, the Chuck Liddells, they left with another concussion and one more regret. By contrast, Matyushenko departed on his own terms, his pride tucked firmly in his back pocket and a fulltime West Los Angeles coaching gig straight ahead of him.

"I'm completely happy," Matyushenko reflects. "I wish I achieved a little more. I wish I won a few more fights. But I'm happy, and I'm not done with MMA. I like what I do. Hopefully it's not my last interview, and I'm going to be coaching some big champions and you guys are still going to call me up.

"To the fans, I just want to say thank you. Without you, I wouldn't have done it. And I definitely wouldn't have fought for that long, that's for sure. So, thank you."

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Recent Comments »

madmaxej9 site profile image  

4/14/14 5:46 PM by madmaxej9

Good luck with his future endeavors, I'll always be a huge fan! I also hope that someone will take the time to sit down with Vlad and get him to tell all these anecdotes from the past 17 years.I had the chance to listen to a few of those over a few beers a while ago and man...everything from how the training back in Russia to how he got to the US..the people that helped him to get a foothold in the US...him being Rampage's wrestling coach in college, then his mma career.. that would make an awesome documentary!or maybe Joe Rogan should invite him to the podcast!

KWAI site profile image  

4/13/14 11:08 AM by KWAI

I am a big fan of his! I actually meet him at a rest /bar in SM ( earth,wind,flour). He was very cool to talk to and made my day. He will be missed as a fighter but we will for sure see more of him as a coach. Good luck Janitor!

cruedi site profile image  

4/12/14 11:49 PM by cruedi

He won the USSR national championship when he was 17. He defected to America soon afterwards. He became a US resident and I believe he's a citizen now.

Sonnenssamich site profile image  

4/12/14 11:28 PM by Sonnenssamich

Thanks for the wild ride Janitor!!!

Wasa-B site profile image  

4/12/14 9:55 PM by Wasa-B

respect for the old school warriors like the Janitor.Question though, how did he go from USSR national champ to competing in JUCO in the US?

talkischeap site profile image  

4/12/14 8:24 PM by talkischeap

All my favs retire!! no matter what he was a great guy who took time for fans and everyday people his advise and kindness will forever be appreciated . Im also very happy for joey great fight great fight great fight

Soup and Beer site profile image  

4/12/14 7:23 PM by Soup and Beer

I remember being at one of his very early fights in the U.S. in a local event  many many years ago.  Always respected the guy.  But perhaps he has gotten injuries and back problems because in his retirement fight it looked like he did not want to wrestle at all.  And once it got to a wrestling match he couldn't hang with Joey.

The Winter Soldier site profile image  

4/12/14 7:18 PM by The Winter Soldier

What a class act. War Janitor! ,

jpm995 site profile image  

4/12/14 5:36 PM by jpm995


ASBELTOMATO site profile image  

4/12/14 5:28 PM by ASBELTOMATO