Vladimir Matyushenko: I’m at the peak of my MMA career (Exclusive)
This Friday, MMA veteran Vladimir “The Janitor” Matyushenko will step inside the Octagon for the 11th time in his career, facing Alexander Gustafsson on the main card of UFC 141 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Currently enjoying a two-fight winning streak in the UFC, Matyushenko will look to solidify his place as a Top 10 UFC Light Heavyweight against the 16 years younger Gustafsson.
Matyushenko is 26-5 in his MMA career, with the reigning UFC 205 Champion Jon Jones being the only man to beat the Belarusian since 2009.
We had an opportunity to speak to “The Janitor” who shared thoughts about the future of his Mixed Martial Arts career, the experience advantage over Alexander Gustafsson, and the rematch with Antonio Rogerio Nogueira he has been chasing for years.
Also, LowKick.com photographer Scott Hirano traveled to Antoni Hardonk’s new Dynamix Gym in Santa Monica, California, to bring the following photoshoot of Vladimir Matyushenko’s preparations for “The Mauler”. Please follow Scott Hirano on Twitter @ScottHirano, and Vladimir Matyushenko @vladthejanitor.
You have a big fight coming up against Alexander Gustafsson on December 30th. How’s the training process going?
Good. I actually just got done training, and got out of the shower. I’m eating my breakfast and then later on today, at 4 o’clock, I’m going to do my strength and conditioning. Then, tomorrow morning, I’m going to train with Antoni Hardonk to work on my striking.
Yeah, at his new Dynamix Gym in Santa Monica?
You are 4-1 since returning to the UFC. Do you consider it the best time of your career right now?
Yeah, I think so. It’s not just because it’s the best time in my career, but overall MMA is having great success. My career is going good as well, so yeah, I’m really enjoying being part of the UFC and MMA.
Great. And what can you tell about Alexander as a fighter? In your opinion, what are his strengths and weaknesses?
Well, I think he’s a well-rounded up and comer. He’s young, he’s talented, and, in a way, he reminds me of Jon Jones. He’s tall, he’s got knockout power – we’re just going to review more today. His takedowns, he’s not bad with his defense, and ground skills. I mean, it’s hard to work on your experience, it comes with years, so we’ll see. He’s a decent opponent and I apologize for not having fought him in August.
Back at that fight, you got injured. How is the recovery going and do you feel 100-percent right now?
Yes, but the recovery was hard in the beginning. I wasn’t sure how bad it was, and, there for a while, I was getting worse and worse. Now, I’m almost 100-percent, I think. But, in MMA you’re never 100-percent, it’s just that nobody talks about it. I’m able to do what I need to do to get ready, so that’s the most important thing.
He’s 16 years younger than you. Do you think it will play some sort of factor in the fight, maybe perhaps with you being more experienced?
Well, yeah, it can go either way. It depends on how that person uses their advantage. If I can use my experience to my advantage, then good, and if he can use his youth and athleticism to his advantage – but, I’m not that bad either. I’m still pretty athletic, strong, and in pretty good shape. So, we’ll see. It can go either way. I don’t think it’s a big factor, just the fact that he’s younger, but it depends on how you use it.
Also, I’d like to ask you, since I am also coming from Eastern European heritage, the fight is on December 30th, and obviously it’s a new year, do you feel okay with it, or would you prefer to be with your family during that time?
No, as a matter of fact, I kind of like it in a way. I’ve been forced to be disciplined, I’ll say that (laughs). So, it’s good for me. Last New Year’s and Christmas I went to Brazil to spend with my wife’s family and I came back like 20-pounds over weight. So, it’s hard, after that period, to come back and get back on track. I hate those days, when you have to start training again, and you’re out of shape. I’m still going to have Christmas and celebrate New Year’s afterward, but much more quiet and disciplined.
Your birthday is on January 4th, if I am correct, so maybe another reason to celebrate?
Yeah, it’s my chance to make myself a good birthday present.
You’ve TKO’ed two of your most recent opponents, and in the case that you are victorious over Gustafsson, this will be your third consecutive victory inside of the Octagon. Would you consider yourself being part of the title shot mix? And, in your opinion, what it takes to be en-route for a shot at the title?
Well, I take my career, especially right now, fight to fight. The 205-pound division is stacked with very good athletes, and I can’t wait to see the Machida vs. Jones fight. As a matter of fact, I’m going down to Toronto with Jared, and I’m going to see what happens. (Editor’s Note: The interview with Vladimi Matyushenkow as conducted before UFC 140) I think it’s going to be a great fight. Then, we’ll see how I do in my fight and, definitely, if I win, and it’s a good win, I definitely have a shot. I mean, not right away, there’s a few people I want to fight before then. Maybe Tito or Little Nog… we’ll see what happens.
And you’ve been asking for that rematch against Lil’ Nog or Tito Ortiz for quite a long time now.
Yes, but time goes fast and you’ll never know, then all of the sudden it’s happening.
This will be your second fight this year, and in 2010, you fought three times. How many times do you plan to fight in 2012, also in light of the fact that you’ll be 41.
Again, it depends on your injuries and your wins and losses. Sometimes it’s more and sometimes it’s less, but I think two or three times is a pretty adequate number. Anymore than that, you’re putting yourself at risk of injuries, and too little, like one or less fights a year, I don’t like to do that because you’re getting rusty and losing your mental focus. So, two or three times is a pretty good number for me.
So, what is your prediction for the fight with Alexander Gustafsson: submission, knockout, or maybe decision?
Well, fast is better, it’s easier, but I’m ready to go the distance, and I already have knockouts on my record from my last fights, so a nice submission would be a good victory.
Would you like to thank any sponsors, teammates, etc.?
I want to thank my teammates: Antoni Hardonk, Henry Atkins and Jared Hamman. Also, my sponsor Jakt, they do a great job and support me through all these times. And my manager Nima Sfapour, the fans, and you guys – the media.