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“When Dustin strangled Khabib, he simply closed his eyes”: UFC vice president about Nurmagomedov’s fight with Porie and the development of MMA in Russia


In recent years, mixed martial arts have become much more popular all over the world, which is a significant merit of Khabib Nurmagomedov. This was stated in an interview with RT by UFC Vice President for Russia Andrei Gromkovsky. The functionary spoke about the difficulties of organizing the tournament held in Abu Dhabi, about the plans for the development of the brand in Russia and about which of the domestic fighters is able to reach the heights of the current lightweight champion.

- On September 7, the UFC 242 tournament was held in Abu Dhabi. How would you rate the level of its organization?

- He succeeded, despite all the difficulties that arose in the preparation process.

- Which ones?

- Firstly, we usually work in ready-made arenas where the location of all the premises is known. In Abu Dhabi, the stadium was built specifically for the show, and the UFC team simply did not know where the technical rooms, the media center, and so on would be located.

- Did you guess how much attention UFC 242 will cause in Russia?

- They understood that they would watch it in Russia and were preparing for it. We collected the appropriate card, secured an agreement with the First Channel and cinemas. We were well aware of what resonance the event in the country would cause.

- Due to the difference in time zones of the American audience, it was hard to follow UFC 242. Was there a risk in the decision to host the show in Abu Dhabi?

- In the United States, at the time the broadcast began, there was a day, so nothing terrible happened. On the other hand, the Abu Dhabi authorities understood that Pay-Per-View (PPV) events are often held in a time zone convenient for North America, so there were certain arrangements. On the other hand, we have received remarkable coverage in Russia and in the post-Soviet space. We know that tens of millions of people watched UFC 242, and this is an amazing success that will affect the fate of mixed martial arts in our country.

- What are the results of the sale of PPV broadcasts that the UFC will arrange for the results of the tournament in Adu Dhabi?

- It is difficult to say what foreign colleagues are counting on. I think the promotion is waiting for very good performance, as it turned out to organize a resonant event and an interesting main match. In any case, the UFC will remain a big plus.

- As far as we know, UFC 242 was the beginning of a long cooperation between the organization and the city of Abu Dhabi . Is the promotion sure of its financial success?

- The long-term contract was announced in advance. Within the framework of cooperation between the Department of Culture and Tourism of Abu Dhabi and the UFC, various events will be held. UFC 242 is one of the first, the subsequent ones will become no less interesting.

- In Abu Dhabi, the first roles were seven Russian fighters, who had a serious responsibility. Have they met the expectations of the UFC?

- I think yes. They tried and did their best. For someone, everything turned out amazingly, like for Habib, for someone - not really. But this is an absolutely natural course of events. It does not happen that all athletes win, and this is for the best. This reflects the highest level of competition; only the strongest wins in the UFC.

- Is it possible to say with confidence that no less than domestic athletes will perform at the upcoming tournaments in Abu Dhabi?

- We hope so and we will ask our colleagues from the USA about it. But there are no guarantees. We would like the shows in the UAE to become home for Russia.

- You said that you took part in the preparations for UFC 242. Which tournament was harder to organize: the first in Moscow or the third in Abu Dhabi?

- The first evening in Moscow was the most difficult, since we did everything for the first time. Plus, he went to the SC "Olympic", which is decades old. In general, they are difficult to compare. It’s one thing to prepare a home show for which you are personally responsible, and another to simply help your colleagues. However, in Abu Dhabi with the organization was not easier than in the capital.

- The first tournament in Abu Dhabi was very powerful by name. Then a four-year pause followed, and only in 2019 did the third in the UAE. Why was the cooperation agreement signed right now, and not then?

- The attitude towards mixed martial arts has changed in the world. They have become much more popular and largely thanks to Habib. This applies to both the countries of the Middle East and Russia. UFC 242 has become a landmark. In a sense, he just demonstrated the increased popularity of MMA.

- Why is the UFC ready to bring its fighters to the Emirates, but does not want to hold title fights in Russia?

“I would not say that someone does not want to bring fighters to us.” It is important to emphasize that the UFC in Russia has been operating for only about a year. During this time, we were able to hold two events, in Moscow and St. Petersburg, launched our own TV channel, completed a large media deal, and agreed to open a network of fitness clubs, UFC Gym halls. At some point, we will try to hold a tournament of no smaller scale. It’s too early to talk about this.

  • Gromkovsky on the work of the UFC in Russia

- Are there prerequisites for the fact that in 2020 we will see the title fight in Russia?

- We will work on this. There are no concrete plans yet.

- What should happen for this - by what criterion does the UFC determine that Russia is ripe before status fights?

- The progressive work and popularization of MMA in the country will lead to this. We have already done this by showing Nurmagomedov’s battle with Porje to 25 million people. This is the first step, and we need to take a few more to consolidate mixed martial arts as one of the most popular sports in Russia.

- But the first UFC tournament in Russia gathered 22 thousand people in the stands. This is the fifth indicator in history. Is this not enough for the leadership of the promotion?

- As a rule, the first event in a new country always breaks attendance records, since accumulated demand works. Our task is to make mixed martial arts one of the main sports in the country. Sometimes I say that MMA in Russia may become the second most popular, and secretly hope that it will be the first.

- It remains solely for the fans, or do Russian fighters also need to do something for this?

- It is important for us that there are many athletes who are successful both in the octagon and beyond. Fans want people to not only show results, but also to be interesting. They should be able to tell their story, share experiences. Now we conduct special media seminars for athletes, where we teach them how to communicate with journalists, fans.

- And many fighters have already visited them?

- So far we are only at the beginning of the journey and have conducted only one training. Now we will repeat this with those who come to Moscow.

- How is the process built?

- Our team sits down with a person, shoots an interview, and then parses him: explains what to say, how best to present himself. After all, each athlete has his own story, and you just need to be able to present it.

- What stories did you especially like?

- For example, Damira Ismagulova. I read it on Instagram and it inspired me a lot. He wrote that he always wanted to perform in MMA, and he did it first in his native city, then in the region. In this progressive manner, he came to the UFC. Perhaps initially he did not even plan to become a fighter, but everything turned out so well for him that he got into the leading promotion of the planet.

- They themselves willingly go for it?

- All people are different. Someone is more open, someone less. Some say, “I know what to do,” while others are ready for this kind of help.

- Would the appearance of a second Nurmagomedov caliber star in Russia help speed up the process of becoming a large UFC market ?

- Of course, we want Russia to have many champions. And only in a year the number of fighters in the country grew by about one and a half times. I hope that in the near future we will have many more reasons for pride.

“Does it not seem to you that Peter Jan could have taken this place?”

- Both Yan and Islam Makhachev are ready for this. Do not write off the accounts of Alexander Volkov, who in Moscow will fight with Junior Dos Santos.

- Perhaps Russia needs its own Conor McGregor, who will insult all his opponents, drink whiskey in the arena?

- On UFC things you can see the Latin abbreviation “HRSD”, which is translated from English as “Honor. Respect. Strength. Discipline". These are the core values ​​that we would like to carry. Yes, there is a thrash current, but I do not consider it the most important part of MMA.

“Doesn't it seem that it’s Jan who is closer to becoming a“ Russian MacGregor? ”

- Each fighter should strive to develop his own style. Peter has his own style, he communicates with opponents, as he sees fit. On the other hand, many prefer to remain silent at all, but show excellent results. We respect everyone, but we cannot say to someone: "You will be a Russian MacGregor."

- As part of the popularization of mixed martial arts in the country, was there an idea to organize a series of battles between Russian and American athletes?

- In fact, at a show in Moscow, Russia also fought against the whole world. In this form, we planned the card. Now added a lot of fighters from different regions of the country.

  • Gromkovsky on the communication of fighters with the press

- Nurmagomedov surprised you with something in the battle with Porje?

- First of all, the ability to get out of the most difficult situations. At some points, we all had to seriously worry for Habib, but he brought the matter to an end. His ability to fight is impressive.

- In the case of the second “guillotine”, Nurmagomedov remained in captivity for a rather long time, and at one moment practically did not move. Was there no fear that the referee could play it safe and prematurely stop the bout?

- Honestly, when Porrier strangled Nurmagomedov, he simply closed his eyes.

- How did Nurmagomedov manage to become so popular with virtually no thrash current?

- Each fighter carries his values ​​and views. If a person is able to open up and show what he really is, it causes respect among other people.

- Nurmagomedov is compared with Fedor Emelianenko, who always behaved respectfully with opponents. See certain parallels between them?

- Probably, there are things inherent in Russian culture. It implies respect for opponents. It is no coincidence that thrash current is not very common in Russia, unlike the Anglo-Saxon countries. In our country, it’s customary to follow the words, which is not so bad.

- Many journalists were outraged by Nurmagomedov’s refusal to participate in the media day. Subsequently, he explained this by focusing on weight loss. A worthy excuse?

- Fighters have every right to refuse to communicate with journalists. They do the most difficult work and should be able to prepare for it as they see fit. As you well know, Khabib always tries to make contact with the media. In particular, they repeatedly asked him to give exclusive interviews to UFC Russia, to Channel One - there were no problems.

- Is there any sanction from the UFC for skipping the media day ?

- No, because the fighters are also people. And if a person loses because of this, who will answer? But I did not encounter frequent failures.

- A few years ago, the UFC banned the use of droppers with saline, hoping to ensure that fighters fought in their weight categories. But even now, athletes continue to “drive” 10 kg per week. Why?

- I am not an expert in this topic, but as far as I understand, weight-lifting is a rather complicated issue that is carefully studied by professionals in the field of sports medicine. So far, no other options, except for the presence of weight categories, have been found. Therefore, athletes are forced to "drive" weight.

- Is it worth the UFC to tighten control over this aspect?

- Promotion does everything for the benefit of athletes. They always come first. But I do not see another alternative. I think colleagues from the USA are puzzled by this issue no less than me.

- Fighters do not understand that in this way they seriously reduce their careers?

- Doctors always attend our events. Moreover, we have a special institute that deals with this issue. Very qualified specialists work there, including Russian speakers. They are always ready to help.

- In November, Russia will host the third tournament under the auspices of the UFC, which will be held in Moscow. Why was CSKA Arena chosen as the venue?

- Unfortunately, Olimpiysky is under reconstruction and we could not use it, although it is one of the largest indoor venues in Europe. There are several arenas in the capital, but plans are planned for the year ahead.

- What criteria influenced your choice?

- This is a new stadium, but it has already hosted many events. In my opinion, in terms of logistics, it is located very well and accommodates up to 14 thousand spectators. The arena will allow the tournament to be held at a qualitatively new level, since we organized the two previous evenings at the old stadiums that were built in Soviet times.

- Given that the first show was visited by more than 22 thousand spectators ...

- If you count those who entered the Olympic without tickets, the number of visitors will increase to 25 thousand people.

- Well, will there be enough arenas with a capacity of 14 thousand?

- I would love to choose a more spacious site, but in Moscow there are not many indoor arenas. And the three that are are about the same. If someone wants to build a new Olympic, we will be happy to organize a tournament there.

  • Gromkovsky on the approach to the selection of fighters

- That is, the point is not that the UFC does not believe in the hype surrounding UFC Moscow?

- Not. Just the demand in Moscow is very large. It would be better for everyone to hold it at a stadium of many thousands.

- Alexander Volkov was already supposed to head the Russian tournament - in St. Petersburg, but at the last moment refused to participate. Is it too risky to bet on him again?

- There is always a risk, since fighters are also people, and they can get injured. We hope that everything will be fine and the battle will take place. Moreover, Alexander did not fight for almost a year, and for him this is a great opportunity to prove himself and continue on his way to the championship title.

- Sometimes in the history of the UFC it happened that due to the removal of the leading fighter of the evening, the whole event was canceled. Does the promotion plan to sanction it?

- In fact, this happens very rarely. In most cases, the UFC tries to find a replacement for athletes. In addition, there are usually health reasons for this. It would be strange to fine a person for getting injured. Athletes need to be treated with love and care.

- The media had information that the failure of Volkov was a failed doping test. It's true?

- I was asked this question a million times. I always answer that Volkov starred due to health problems. This topic is confidential, so I would not want to give any comments. He will fight in Moscow, I think Alexander during this time solved all the problems.

- Does the UFC view Volkov as a contender for the title after losing to Derrick Lewis?

- He remains in a high place in his weight category. Alexander is a very promising athlete. Our matchmakers also watch fights, and they perfectly saw that on that day Alexander had very great chances of success. Unfortunately, it was not possible to achieve it. Let's hope Volkov succeeds in Moscow.

- How will the victory over Dos Santos bring him closer to the league title?

- In this case, Volkov will definitely return to the number of applicants for the belt.

- Is it possible to say that putting Volkov at the head of the show, the UFC wants to check whether Alexander is able to bring money to the promotion?

“We know that he is capable of attracting attention.” People are already asking the promotion management many questions regarding this battle. Interest in him is very big. And we never look at a fighter from the point of view of whether he brings money or not. First of all, we pay attention to his athletic qualities, and secondly, to his personal qualities, what kind of person has potential in terms of media and work with fans. The question of popularity, success is important.

- But there is an example of Macregore who did not go into the octagon after losing to Nurmagomedov, but still has not dropped out of the list of applicants for the title.

- There are exceptions to the rules, and there are only a few such fighters. I hope Habib is now one of them too. But the promotion does not look at it from the point of view of money, it comes from a position of popularity. And the income that we will receive is the result of our work.

- Who else is on the list of these “exceptions” besides Habib and Conor?

“You yourself know these people.” I think Ferguson and some others. We are talking about current and former UFC champions, which attract a lot of attention.

- In addition to the main battle, five fights of the main card of the tournament in Moscow have been announced at the moment, but there is not a single status fighter in it. Should we expect the appearance of UFC stars in it ?

- We are working on it. We have an agreed battle of the evening, until we announced the names of the athletes who will meet in it, but we expect to do this soon. I think the fans will be satisfied. Plus, we plan to announce the compositions of other pairs.

- Does the UFC already have plans to hold a show in Russia in 2020?

- Yes, I think, in the near future we will be able to announce the following events. The planning process is currently underway. We have already said that we want to hold in the country from two shows a year.

- Does the UFC plan to explore the Russian regions?

- We look at a large number of cities. In addition to Russia, we are considering options in other post-Soviet countries.

- In light of the organization of the tournament in Abu Dhabi with an eye on the title fight with the participation of Habib, does the UFC consider holding a show in Dagestan?

- Dagestan is a wonderful place in terms of mixed martial arts. It is difficult to imagine which arena is able to accommodate everyone who wants to attend such an event. But this is a matter of many factors, including infrastructure, logistics, security, organization costs. Therefore, there are no such plans yet, but we always leave the door open.

Source: russiart

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