Artem Lobov: Home is Where the Heart is
They say ‘Home is where the heart is’ and the saying couldn’t be truer for Artem Lobov, the Russian naturalized Irish UFC featherweight contender. The SBG Ireland team-member travels to Brooklyn on April 7th to face Alex Caceres and ahead of that match-up he took some time out to speak with us here at SpitballingPod.
‘The Irish fans have always been very good to me and I feel now that Ireland is my home, this is the reason that I raise both of my flags at the exact same time’ he said, explaining his allegiance to two different nations. He continued ‘Russia is the place where I was born, but Ireland is the place where I was born as a fighter, so both places are my home and both places are very close to my heart. I get support from Russia and Ireland, it’s great, and I absolutely love it’.
When Artem enters the octagon on April 7th, he will be greeted by both Irish and Russian cheers; Brooklyn is home to large communities of both Russians and Irishmen alike and so there is really no better place to be if you’re a fan of the ‘Russian Hammer’. Artem described it as ‘the only place on the planet’ where he could have both his Irish and Russian fans in the same place.
Speaking on the matchup on April 7th, Lobov seemed more than content with his choice of opposition – ‘I’m very happy with the matchup’ he admitted, before explaining ‘he was known as a striker in the past, but I think because he dropped a few decisions to wrestlers that took him down and so he’s changed his style a little bit and he wrestles a lot more nowadays’. Answering whether that would be an issue for him, he said ‘I’m not too worried about that because he’s fought at 135 and that tells me that he’s not that big of a featherweight – I don’t think he’ll be able to take me down, so I look forward to the matchup, it’s as good of a matchup as I could ask for at this stage’.
Ultimately, wrestling sealed the deal for Andre Fili in Artem’s last bout and when reflecting on the bout he recalled ‘I felt in control in the fight. He was trying to take me down, I defended every takedown, I was pressing the action, he was moving away from me the whole time and I just got maybe a bit too relaxed, so ended up eating that head kick. I recovered well given the severity of the strike and I thought I won the second round, but my mind wasn’t there, I just wasn’t as sharp anymore’. When looking back at the final round, Lobov sounded particularly displeased with the manner in which it unfolded, saying ‘I wasn’t able to react quick enough to his takedown attempts in the third but then he did nothing with them. He just laid there on top of me, not wanting to engage, he wasn’t fighting me at that point, he was just fighting the clock and hoping the time would run out and I don’t kill him in there’.
Takedowns are and always will be a part of mixed martial arts (and so they should be – that’s where the mixed part comes in) but it seems like the difference between using a takedown to remain aggressive and set up strikes or submissions and simply using it to run the clock down and prevent engagement is where Artem sees an issue (as a portion of fans do too). ‘Eventually I think those guys will be gone, the fans at this stage know what they want to see and they hate seeing that, so in turn the UFC won’t want to put it on and so the result is that I feel eventually those guys will disappear’ he said, when asked if anything could be done to prevent such tactics. He also added that he thinks judges could maybe look at how such situations are scored.
No fighter ever wants to lose, that much is clear, but what fighters such as Artem and Gaethje for example have shown is that if you’re going to lose, there definitely is a right and a wrong way to do so. Even when losing, Artem puts on a show everytime and the fans in tune react well to that. ‘I mean, don’t get me wrong, this is a sport and in a sport, to be successful, you have to win; but this is also an entertainment business and people don’t like watching boring fights, so as a business the UFC try not to put them on. If you have an entertaining style like myself then that certainly ticks a lot of boxes’. Artem even revealed that following his loss to Andre Fili, he had received numerous offers from other promotions, he explained ‘As soon as other promotions thought I might be getting cut, I was getting a bunch of offers, and in fact they were for more money than I’m getting paid in the UFC’.
Following his last defeat, Artem appeared to tease retirement in his post-fight interviews but he quickly cleared this up and assured us that it was never really a consideration – ‘To be honest I didn’t really consider retirement as such, more than anything I was thinking about the possibility of changing the way I fight – whether that was boxing, or K1 or whatever. After a loss, it’s a feeling that is very hard to explain unless you experience it yourself, but I never really believed I was going to stop fighting. I absolutely love fighting, I never got into it for money, I just love the sport; I want to do this for as long as I can, and I will do so for as long as my body will allow me to’. We can all breathe a sigh of relief.
Compared to others in the UFC, Lobov revealed that he got involved in MMA at a relatively late age, he reminisced and told us ‘I was 21 years old, I was studying in university and walking through a corridor, when I saw an ad on the wall saying ‘Would you like to learn self-defence?’, I remembered watching all of the old UFC fights back in the day and this was something I’d always wanted to try but never really had a chance. I went along, tried it and I absolutely loved it and the rest as they say is history’.
The 31 year old has had a long 29 fight career so far and seems to engage in a war and put it all on the line every single time – explaining his motivation for fighting, he said ‘To me, this is the truest sport imaginable – you really get to test your character, you really get to test when people say ‘this guy is tough’ or ‘that guy is tough’ as there is no lying here, you will get exposed. This is also the most animalistic form of sport, it’s bred into us, the Olympic games started from fighting and it’s like my coach always says ‘If you’re ever walking through the park and you see people playing football, basketball etc and then a fight breaks out, everyone is going to watch the fight, it’s just in our nature’.
Providing ‘The Russian Hammer’ comes through this bout victorious, you may not have to look much further for his next opponent; Lower down the card at UFC223, Zabit Magomedsharipov takes on Kyle Bochniak and a fight between the pair has been rumoured for quite some time. Answering as to whether they could meet further down the line, Artem was very clear in his response, telling us ‘I don’t turn down anybody, that’s been me from day one and I will continue to be the same way. I even told the UFC, ‘don’t bother sending me the contract, just sign it for me and that’s it let’s go. Don’t even tell me who the guy is, just tell me when, where and what weight I need to be and I’ll show up and see the guy on the night of the fight – it doesn’t bother me at all’, so returning to the aforementioned potential opponent he clarified ‘So it’s a yes from me, it has been a yes from me for this guy for a long time, I reached out to Sean Shelby on a number of occasions saying that I want that matchup, but it hasn’t happened so it’s out of my hands. If it’s offered down the line, it’s a yes from me’.
Make sure you tune in early on 7th April as Lobov v Caceres takes place as part of the ‘Fight Pass prelims’. Win, lose or draw, Artem puts on a show every single time and so he’ll be out to prove that he still has enough in the tank to make a mark on the featherweight division.