- Tell us about your tournament in Yekaterinburg?
- This is not the first time we have held a boxing tournament in Russia, but this is the first competition on the UFC Fight Pass platform, which will be broadcast to the whole world and, of course, to the main audience - in the USA. They gathered good fighters who have the potential to reach a new level. All the time we are looking for guys who are ready to show the whole world the level of sports talent that Russia has. And then they will begin to be noticed on mainstream platforms, which in the future will give them a good chance to try to win the belts of world champions.
- But do these fighters themselves - after all, they are not stars at all - understand that their fights will be shown to the whole world through the UFC platform?
- Oh sure. That is why they signed up for it. They understood that for them this is the main opportunity for career advancement, because in Russia no one else broadcasts boxing to the whole world. If these fighters want to get on the UFC radar, they should take full advantage of their chance.
- How did you manage to agree with the UFC ?
- The Absolute Fighting Championship signed a contract with ESPN, through which the channel passes the rights to broadcast part of the MMA fights and can no longer be shown live on the UFC Fight Pass platform. Yes, and HBO decided to abandon boxing broadcasts, so I decided to try to occupy this niche and promote Russian fighters on the UFC platform. In this regard, an agreement was reached that my company will do fights in Russia, which will be broadcast on the platform.
“Does this have anything to do with your close relationship with Dana White?”
- Yes, but in fact, we made this deal with the team. And only then they came up with a proposal for a tournament directly to the RMK Martial Arts Academy in Yekaterinburg.
- Why did your choice fall on her?
- She does so much good for boxing, the development of mixed martial arts and other types of martial arts. Given the scope of our project, the Academy’s desire to promote its fighters, as well as my desire to popularize Russian sports all over the world, we have united. Professional boxing is very young in Russia. So, we with RMK realized that we have similar dreams and that we need to work together. So far so good.
- In 2015, you said that you need to obtain Russian citizenship in order to do business here. What about your other projects?
- The UFC Fight Pass is already here. So I didn’t dissemble at all! Of course, citizenship made it easier for me to do business in Russia, to connect Russian sport with the world in general and American, in particular. I also managed to implement three children's social projects.
- Tell us about it ...
- We found 200 children in boxing sections in Siberia and other places, including in Irkutsk. Recently, 100 young athletes arrived in Moscow, I had to choose the ten best from them, but in the end the figure increased to 30. I will be engaged in their development, teach boxing. Because you have to look to the future, tomorrow.
“Why are you doing all this?”
- I would like to repay Russia with a good coin - to share the experience that I gained in the ring and beyond. I want to pass it on to Russian fighters. President Putin was kind to me and allowed me to become a citizen of the country, so as a thank you I want to bring the maximum benefit to society.
- How did you get the idea to do this in Russia?
I am such a person by nature. As a child I was told that you should choose not the beauty that everyone wants, but the one that goes crazy for you. That she should be next to you. So did. In 2011, one guy said that in Russia I am of interest to many. He himself did not know at all, but he came and was convinced that it was true. Not obsessed with the fact that people liked me in the place where I live. But still I want to be where you are loved.
- You want to say that in the USA they do not feel such warm feelings?
- Do not get it wrong - in the USA they love me too. But often the boxers there are no longer watching after the end of a career. In Russia, it’s not at all like that. They know you and never forget the significance of your career. Perhaps some Americans no longer remember me, but here everything is different.
- Did you have to listen a lot to the USA in your address?
- Yes, it was. But I didn’t renounce US citizenship. There are many Russians with dual citizenship. It is not prohibited. So this becomes a problem, just because I'm a famous person? Here people love and value me, and I treat them the same way. Therefore, I hear criticism, but do not listen.
- At that time, Donald Trump gained popularity in the USA, and Russia was treated very badly. How did you manage to deal with this pressure?
- My idol, Muhammad Ali, refused to fight in Vietnam, citing the fact that the citizens of this country did nothing wrong with him. And he was absolutely right. He defended his point of view, decided to follow his example. Politicians in the US blame Russia for all sins. But I haven’t seen anything like it. When he played at tournaments against local boxers, they were no different from the rest. I beat some, someone beat me, but then we shook hands and dispersed. There were no qualities that are being talked about all the time. I always believe only in my own eyes.
- In the last year, the battles between Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather, as well as Alexander Emelyanenko and Mikhail Koklyaev, caused a wide resonance. In your opinion, do such fights have a negative impact on sports?
“I don't think so.” Today, people live at a very fast pace, many have become famous thanks to social networks, although they themselves have not achieved anything in life. Some of these guys know better than famous athletes, world champions.
- Would you yourself watch such fights?
- Depends on the participants. For example, a boxer’s meeting with a powerlifter is definitely not appealing to me. Because the second one never fought with anyone. You will not be able to withstand the blow when you do not know how it feels to receive in the face.
- And as for the fight between McGregor and Mayweather?
“It was interesting to know how long he would last.” Of course, Floyd had never met him before, but he knew exactly what he was going on. And withstood much longer than everyone expected.
- If you understand boxing, can you predict in advance how such a fight will end?
- Yes. But I am sometimes disturbed by the decisions of the Nevada Athletic Commission (NSAC). Recently, there was my fighter, who had 14 victories and one defeat. At the same time, his counterpart had one successful battle less. However, the judge said he would give them six rounds, because nine they supposedly would not stand. But each of them has more than ten fights in the professional ring.
- Are you outraged that McGregor was allowed to carry out all 12 rounds, despite the lack of experience playing in professionals?
- This is at least strange. This is the main problem of boxing. Too many people who spoil everything, poorly assess the situation or do not know how to cope with circumstances. The same thing with freak fights. Yes, sometimes they can be seen from nothing to do, especially since everyone is talking about them. Between the stars of social networks there are good amateur duels. But their members earn much more than professional athletes.
“Are you talking about the battle between Logan Paul and KSI?”
- Yes. This is unfair, but, alas, happens.
- What do you think about this trend as a whole?
- What can I say? You can’t hate people because they learned how to correctly use social networks to earn money. It’s just that real fighters are really sorry in this situation, because they are not appreciated and loved by fans.
- If you analyze, do MMA fighters have chances in battles with boxers?
- Of course. Especially if they have a hit. For example, like Nurmagomedov’s. If you miss from Habib, you will immediately lie down. Boxing skills at his height. Therefore, it differs from the rest.
“Is he really stronger in this aspect than Conor?”
- Magregor is also a good boxer, but he is not as cool a puncher as a Russian. That is, everyone who has a hit in mixed martial arts has a chance against boxers.
- Nurmagomedov has a chance against Mayweather?
- If he prepares correctly, then yes. I think if I trained him, I would be able to lead to this fight, and he would definitely have a chance. I perfectly understand what you need to pay attention to. This is my life, I am a boxing guru! I know everything about him, how to win in different styles.
- Is this an official offer?
- No, I'm just saying that I could train such a fighter for a duel with a boxer and give him the proper level of training. Then he will have a chance. Of course, there are other specialists, including in Russia.
“Would you like that yourself?”
- Why not?
- Another MMA star, Jorge Masvidal, said he would like to fight Saul Alvarez. Could this make a good fight?
No, Canelo will tear it to shreds. It’s better not to go against him. He is no longer 21 years old, and he is very different from the rest of the boxers, head and shoulders above them.
“Why are you so sure?”
- Gennady Golovkin escaped from the first battle, and in the second Saul drove him. Therefore, Masvidalya has no chance. Damn it, this applies to almost every boxer, to say nothing of the MMA fighter. It is commendable that he wants to fight him, I think many will pay for watching this duel, because both have a huge number of fans. If such a meeting unites two fan bases, then we get a cool show and a sporting event that even I can watch.
- What for?
- At least in order to find out how long Jorge lasts and how many hits he will miss before he lies down.
- Where is Alvarez on your list of the best boxers?
- I have three favorite athletes. In terms of skills, this is Vasily Lomachenko. But he is not the hardest hit - or we have not seen him yet. Regarding appearances and the percentage of victories, Terence Crawford leads here, although he has not yet fought Earl Spence. And finally, the fighter who went through all the circles, beat everyone and reigned on top - this is definitely Canelo.
- Can the victory of Lomachenko over Gervonta Davis change the balance of power?
- If Vasily gets the upper hand, he will become the best for me, because he has already defeated everyone in his weight category.
“Deontay Wilder is not yet close to this list?”
“No, because he didn't beat Tyson Fury.” Yes, he knocked him twice, but in the end there was a draw. And with Louis Ortiz it was not easy for him, especially in the first fight. The second time, Wilder had a very clever fight and showed his maturity, although the opponent boxed better. But still there is a difference between the strongest and most popular fighter.
- What do you have in mind?
- In the first case, we are talking about those who can do everything. Crawford can fight with both his right and left hands. Same thing with Lomachenko and Canelo. Could this be Deontay? We do not know, because we have not seen such a performance in it yet. I will never say that the boxer is the best, just because he has become popular. But in the list of the most powerful punchers, Wilder leads by an edge.
- What are your expectations from the second fight between Wilder and Fury?
- The first was rather dull. If Wilder gets bored of fighting again, he won’t rise in my ranking.
“So Fury looked better in the first fight?”
- Of course. This is a good fighter who was smarter in the battle with Wilder.
- Who would you bet in this revenge?
“I think on Deontheus.” I can’t say with accuracy that Fury is now 100% ready to take a hit. And I liked it just that. Even when Wilder knocked him down twice, he stood up. But then overweight helped him, now without him it will be harder. Tyson is smarter and, perhaps, even better vis-a-vis, but don’t think about it when a boxer sheds weight.
“What are you thinking?”
- About getting away from a blow. It scared me all the time when I was losing weight. If he can handle it, he will win.
- If you could jump into a time machine and return to the years when you were at your peak and fight with any boxer in the history of sports, who would it be?
- I would choose Sugar Ray Robinson. This is the closest boxer to me in all respects - skills, impact force, pace, speed, explosiveness, the ability to move from weight to weight. And I would like to fight with the best.
“But what about Rocky Marciano?”
“He was cool, but his cousins appeared on his track record.” Yes, he left undefeated, but that does not mean that he had the best style. And Robinson could win circles in the ring and fight for long rounds against Jake Lamotta, not ceasing to go forward.
“So Robinson is your idol in boxing?”
- Oh sure. In terms of craftsmanship, it was he and Salvador Sanchez. If we take into account also the scale of the person, then this, of course, is Muhammad Ali.