— You spent part of the preparation for the fight with Magomed Ismailov in the Elbrus region.

Why there?

— Very good environment: clean air, quiet, calm, no distractions.

Plus, it's high altitude.

And when, after being in such a place, you find yourself at a lower altitude, you can notice how much easier it is for you to breathe.

You begin to bear loads better.

For example, the base is located at an altitude of 2500 meters above sea level.

As you climb the stairs to the second floor, you begin to feel short of breath.

The body needs about a week to acclimatize to such conditions, at least three to four days.

— How long does this effect last after training at high altitudes?

“They say it can last up to a year.”

I think six months is the minimum.

My team and I wanted to ensure that the effect was maximally manifested for the fight with Ismailov.

—Have you visited this base before?

- Yes.

This was the fourth time.

— You said that Kamran Abbasov and Valentin Moldavsky helped you during that training camp.

Are two sparring partners enough for you?

- Like when.

For example, at first, in the Elbrus region, two people from Universal Fighters helped me - Ismail and Magomed.

Then they left for the competition, and Abbasov and Moldavsky kept me company.

In principle, this number of sparring partners was enough for me.

— When visiting different training camps, an athlete probably pursues certain goals.

Your preparation is now divided into three stages: Elbrus region, Stary Oskol and Dagestan.

What do you want to achieve in a particular place?

— In Stary Oskol, the emphasis is on striking techniques, in particular boxing.

In the Elbrus region - work on endurance, “physics”.

In Dagestan there is more wrestling, training is more intense.

This week I just arrived in Makhachkala.

I will conduct the final part of the collection here.

— You have repeatedly admitted in interviews that you doubted whether you would be able to visit Dagestan before the fight with Ismailov.

What were the difficulties?

— Several representatives of the Fedor Team are also currently undergoing training camps.

We thought about how we would prepare, with whom, together or not.

There was an option to gather in Chekhov, invite some more of the guys and hold a large-scale camp.

But the majority decided to prepare at home, in Belgorod, and I went to Dagestan.

— What is more comfortable for you: moving from camp to camp or training in one?

— It can be hard to stay in one place all the time: the same exercises, the same approach.

Gradually you get tired of it, you want something new.

When you go somewhere, you abstract from everything extraneous and concentrate exclusively on preparation.

It is impossible to do this at home.

There's a family, a wife.

There is always something to do, and I also want to play with the children.

Therefore, there is no full recovery.

In the same Dagestan, I arrived, trained, and went to rest.

Nothing distracts or interferes.

Focused on work, moving towards your goal.

It's better to prepare this way.

— Compared to Stary Oskol, how is the training process fundamentally different at



— Here the emphasis is on struggle, there is a lot of it.

In Stary Oskol we spend less time on it, where we mainly practice striking.

The main training takes place at five in the evening, but there are changes depending on the occupancy of the hall.

There are a lot of people at this time.

For example, now the sparring time for lightweights has been slightly shifted - there is not enough space.

And another class takes place in the morning - paw work or something similar to CrossFit.

— Did you decide to think about fighting specifically in the perspective of the fight with Ismailov or even after the defeat to Johnny Eblin?

— Personally, I really need wrestling skills.

Must be able to defend well, attack himself, and mix wrestling with striking techniques.

In this case, everything works out great for me in the cage.

“Consequently, none of these fights became a trigger.”

Then what made you want to join



— It’s difficult to say for sure.

Once I came to the World Cup in Combat Sambo, lay there and thought: “What should I add?

What am I missing?

And I thought that I wanted to improve my wrestling power.

I came to Dagestan and really liked it there.

— You now continue to actively compete in amateur competitions.

How comfortable is it to combine this with professional


“It’s not distracting at all; on the contrary, it’s beneficial.”

After all, you are in a competitive tone, constant participation in such championships does not allow you to relax.

For example, in 2023 he had only one professional fight.

In fact, he could sit idle for almost a whole year.

And so I fought four times as amateurs and avoided a huge downtime.

Of course, there is a risk of injury, but injury can occur even if you are not performing.

— Speaking of the battle with Eblin, what didn’t work out for you then?

How strong is this opponent?

- It wasn't my day.

I was out of shape that evening, so it all ended that way.

Therefore, it is difficult for me to unambiguously assess Eblin’s level.

Of course, he is a strong athlete.

He got the better of Gegard Mousasi and confidently dealt with Fabian Edwards.

Good in wrestling, very good in stand-up.

— Is he among the top middleweights in the world at the moment?

- I think yes.

In my opinion, Eblin is now in the top five.

— Who else would be included in this list?

— It seems to me that I am part of it too (



Who else?

We can’t help but mention Sean Strickland and Dricus Du Plessis, who recently fought for the UFC 84 kg title.

But I will say that I didn’t like the fight.

He was boring and uninteresting.

There was nothing to see.

But I will not belittle their dignity.

Still, it was not for nothing that they fought for the belt.

This means these are top athletes.

— In one of the interviews you were asked if you were ready to move to Dagestan.

According to you, this option was not considered with your wife, unlike Moscow.

— Personally, I wouldn’t want to move to Moscow.

I have been there several times - both at training camps and while passing through.

Perhaps you need to live a little to understand whether it’s mine or not.

But for now I’m inclined to answer in the negative.

- Why?

— I underwent rehabilitation there several times after an injury, and came by car.

As a result, the 5 km journey from home to the clinic took me an hour.

Then another hour and a half to another hospital, and the same amount to the hall.

As a result, I left in the morning and returned in the evening.

Had dinner and went to bed.

This is not life



If you settled in some area where a gym and a kindergarten were available, you might think about it.

— Speaking about your partners on

the Fedor

Team, in February the next fight awaits the former

Bellator light heavyweight champion Vadim Nemkov.

How was his preparation?

— Vadim also studied in the Elbrus region, and from there he should immediately go to the USA.

I left there a little earlier, but he stayed a week.

— In one of your interviews, you said that Nemkov could easily deal with Cappelozza.

Why are you so sure?

— Vadim is in good shape: he has high speed and a heavy blow.

He is capable of knocking out Cappelozza at any time - even at the very beginning, even in the fifth minute.

In my opinion he is superior to Bruno in every aspect.

I believe and hope that Nemkov will win and prove himself well in the heavyweight division.

He has the strength to become a champion in this weight.

— Is there any concern in the team that he is not big enough for this division?

- But there is an example of the same Daniel Cormier.

He is not tall, but he made a splash in the heavy category.

I think Vadim will be fine.

Yes, he’s smaller than many, but he’s faster, more resilient, and he’s got plenty of muscle.

Nemkov can succeed there.

— What is Nemkov’s working weight?

- About 106 - 108 kg.

Yes, there is still a lot left to the limit, you can gain more.

But look at the same Moldavsky.

During the fight he weighs about 104 kg, but everything is fine with him.

— You admitted that in 2023 at one of the amateur tournaments you competed in the category up to 98 kg...

— At one of the combat sambo championships I fought at 88 kg, at another - up to 98 kg.

At the same time, in hand-to-hand combat the maximum weight was 97 kg, and on the scales it showed about 92.

— Have you ever thought about moving up a category and trying your hand at light heavyweight?

- No.

Sometimes I thought about this topic, but I understood that there were people fighting there who weighed more than 100 kg in their free time.

And at the moment of the fight they will be heavier than me.

In the end, put me and the same Vadim next to each other.

I can't handle it



It seems to me that 84 kg is my natural weight.

Created for performing in it.

— The first

PFL and

Bellator tournament will take place in February.

Does your team now have an understanding of what the future holds for these leagues?

— I’m most interested in how everything will develop.

I would like to hear the answer to this question.

But there is no clarity yet.

- They don’t say when she should appear?

- No.

But I didn't ask.

They said they won’t give me a fight until May, so I’m focusing on the confrontation with Ismailov.

After that we will talk with promotion representatives.

I hope PFL and Bellator will arrange a fight for me.

He is the last one on my contract.

I would like to work it out and then see what conditions they will offer.

I think by this time everything will become clearer.

— Looking back, how would you characterize your period in Bellator?

— In general, I was happy with everything and liked it.

Of course, I didn’t manage to achieve all my goals and never won the trophy.

But I had a chance.

Yes, recent years have been a little blurry - first there was the coronavirus pandemic, then a special operation began in Ukraine.

Because of this, the competitive rhythm was a little lost.

One fight a year is very little.

— How many fights per year is optimal for you?

- Three.

The minimum limit is two fights, but if you feel properly you could fight four or five times.

— This is how much athletes usually fight in

the PFL...

- Yes.

Four battles per season is an ideal situation.

— As ex-

PFL fighter Nikolai Aleksakhin said, working at such a rhythm is very difficult.

After all, due to constant weight cuts, health problems appear already by the second or third fight.

— Weight cutting can really affect your health.

Immunity drops, “physics” goes away.

Plus, you need to have time to recover before the next fight.

In principle, a month for recovery, two for preparation is normal.

In any case, everyone is on an equal footing.

— In general, don’t you think the

PFL tournament system is too unfair?

After all, we could repeatedly see how a fighter had a great regular season, but then got injured and lost the opportunity to fight for a million dollars.

- Of course, this is hard to survive.

But this is a reason to take a smarter approach to preparation: gradually reduce the load, monitor your health.

- But isn't this like a lottery?

- No, this is a kind of test for the fighter’s literacy.

How well he can approach the tournament.

Is he able to structure his training in such a way as to gain optimal shape, but at the same time avoid injuries?

It is clear that accidents happen, and no one is insured against them.

But this also depends on us.

— The last time you had four fights in a year was in 2015.

How comfortable was it?

— For me, the year ended with a battle with AJ Matthews at RIZIN.

It was normal, I didn’t feel any difficulties.

And at the beginning I had three fights in three months - that was a bit difficult.

Constant weight gain, the need to keep yourself in good shape and the lack of opportunity to develop.

When you fight at such a rhythm, you cannot gain “physics” or learn something new.

You just keep fit.

In my case, the difficulty is also that my instinct of self-preservation disappears when I fight too often.

I don’t have the jitters that I usually experience before fights.

Sometimes I would go into the cage, but it didn’t matter to me who I would fight.

For me, fighting a fight was like drinking tea.

And a couple of times it played a cruel joke on me.

As Mike Tyson says, fear is a fire that can either burn you or warm you.

It needs to be there, but you need to control it.

But I simply didn’t have this feeling.

— Were you surprised by Cocker’s decision to sell


— It was unexpected, everything happened quite quickly.

But this is a matter for management, they know better.

Apparently, a good offer was received, so this choice was made.

— Surely you thought for what purpose

PFL decided to buy


What conclusion did you come to?

— In my understanding, if two organizations merge, then they have only one goal - to fully compete with the UFC, to become higher.

— Name two of the most memorable fights in Bellator: one with your participation, the other with a Fedor Team fighter.

- I will not take fights with the participation of Fedor Vladimirovich (Emelianenko. -



They are all memorable, exciting, disturbing.

Therefore, I will highlight the battle with the participation of my brother, in which his opponent was Jairo Pacheco.

The Brazilian has a good punch, so Vova tried to focus on the fight.

As a result, there were three rounds of incomprehensible fuss, and I was very worried.

When I remember, I still get goosebumps.

If we talk about my fights, the duel with Eblin immediately comes to mind.

Probably because the last one still left a residue.

— I thought you would call a meeting with Alexander Shlemenko.

Still, they defeated the former

Bellator champion.

— It was a long time ago and it’s not true



What matters is here and now.

— In early March, you will have a rematch with Magomed Ismailov at the

ACA tournament.

Who came up with the idea to arrange this duel?

— As I already said, a year has passed since my last fight.

We talked with the elders and decided to organize a fight in Russia.

Denis Aleksandrovich Kurilov began negotiations, the ACA League was the first to show interest.

Ismailov was proposed as an opponent.

All parties agreed and good terms were offered.

We quickly shook hands.

— As far as we know, Ismailov has long wanted to have a return match with you.

But how interesting is this to you?

- This is very interesting, media.

I think it will cause a huge stir in Russia, a lot of people will watch it.

Moreover, I will finally be able to enter the cage.

A cool fight, an opportunity to perform in front of my home fans.

— Ismailov is very popular in Russia.

And literally every fight with his participation has the status of one of the most anticipated of the year.

In your opinion, is the fight between Tokov and Ismailov the main attraction in 2024?

- I can’t say, I don’t know.

But given the popularity of Magomed, I think yes.

We can say that this is the fight of the year (



This is the case when Ismailov works for himself and for that guy.

— Are there any other Russian fighters you would like to fight if you had the opportunity?

- In my opinion, if there was no option to fight with Magomed, we would have found another person.

Another worthy opponent.

Still, such a long pause in speeches cannot be allowed.


Bellator weren’t against you fighting in Russia?

— Fyodor Vladimirovich and Denis Alexandrovich were negotiating.

Bellator management has given us written permission to fight.

— In one of your interviews, you said that you had not yet had time to watch Ismailov’s last fights, but were planning to.

Did you manage to do this?

- Not yet.

— Over the past two and a half years, Ismailov had only one fight according to

MMA rules; he preferred to express himself in boxing.

Do you think this could be detrimental to him?

- In my opinion, this will have a positive effect on Magomed.

He will be even more dangerous in the standing position.

And his struggle will not escape him.

— The famous Russian fighter Alexey Oleynik included Ismailov among the best Russian grapplers among

MMA representatives.

Who would you put on the same level as him?

— It seems to me that in Russia there are enough athletes with very decent wrestling skills.

If we take the average weight, then we can remember Shamil Abdulaev, Magomedrasul Gasanov.

We have a lot of strong grapplers, but many of them just lack promotion.

— A funny spat ensued between you and Ismailov.

In one of the interviews you addressed him, then he wrote to you personally.

Did you answer him anything?

- No, we just exchanged a couple of phrases in a friendly manner.

Nothing personal.

As they say, a little humor in the feed.

No hard feelings.

— One gets the impression that you treat all your opponents with great respect.

Have there ever been times when you had a conflict with a future opponent?

- No never.

The tension is always there, but a certain line has not been crossed.

Personally, I don't need conflicts.