Former Bellator MMA champion Alexander Shlemenko on May 4 was back in his native Russia, where he met Viscardi Andrade in the Russian Cagefighting Championship 6 main event. It was Shlemenko’s 70th professional fight and marked his second appearance in the RCC cage, despite the fact that he was not under long-term contract to the promotion. Both of his RCC bouts were the result of single-fight agreements.
Shlemenko, 34, stopped Andrade with punches 3:37 into the third round. It was his 58th career victory and the 32nd by knockout or technical knockout. Shlemenko has already expressed a desire to participate in the next Russian Cagefighting Championship tournament.
In this exclusive interview with Sherdog.com, the “Storm” touched on his approach to matchmaking, his fight with Andrade and how he manages to split his duties as a trainer and fighter:
Sherdog.com: When you consider opponents, do you focus on their standing in the sport?
Shlemenko: No, I never focus on their ranking or the significance of a future opponent. Maybe I regret that a little now, because so many fighters had the chance to fight me and make names for themselves. I haven’t chosen specific opponents I was offered. I always agreed. Never once did I refuse someone.
Sherdog.com: What do you think about the brazen fighters who seek to build their brand at your expense?
Shlemenko: I haven’t met any of these bold young men. There has been talk for a long time, but I’m very calm about it. I always look at how important they are and how bold they are, because in a fight, all this boldness quickly disappears. They can grab my leg and hold my leg, run off to jump and then thank the judges. God forbid they win and be able to shout that they won. Everyone has seen how this happens.
Sherdog.com: How did you prepare for the fight with Andrade and how did you evaluate him?
Shlemenko: I’ve had a problem underestimating my opponents and underestimating them at the last moment. I always prepare well for all my fights, but there’s a psychological issue there. This fight was very important for me, because it was in Chelyabinsk and a lot of people came to support me. I hope I’ve solved the problem of underestimating my opponents, because it has cost me some wins.
Sherdog.com: How do you balance your responsibilities as a coach with your responsibilities as a fighter?
Shlemenko: It’s reflected in my career. I’ve had failure -- three defeats -- that I associate with not being able to combine everything correctly. Now that I understand how to do it, I’ll continue to correct those mistakes.
Sherdog.com: If one of your children shows an interest in MMA and professional prizefighting, will you be in favor of it?
Shlemenko: I don’t even think about whether or not they will go into it. They already train at my gym. My son has been training, and although he is only 3 years old, he likes it. In a lot of cases, children will do what their parents do. If the father is a fighter, then the children are going to like fighting. There can be no other way. Life is difficult, especially in Russia. Every year, it becomes harder and harder. I wouldn’t want to condemn -- and I advise others not to condemn -- my children to 100 percent death by not teaching them to stand up for themselves and not teaching them to fight. Plus, athletes are always healthy, always strong and always have the ability to at least protect themselves. Most importantly, they have a better chance at staying sober.