“I used to play with weights instead of toys”
RT: Aleksandr Emelianenko, thank you very much for being with us today. You are many times the champion of Russia, Europe, and the world in combat sambo. Why do you think you are better than the others?
Aleksandr Emelianenko: Because...I don’t know…I live, I want to do sports; I like to try new things in sports, something I haven’t tried before. And combat is what I’m best at. I think it’s a wrong approach not to compete, say, in boxing, if you’re great at boxing. One should, as long as there is a possibility, try to embrace as much as possible.
RT: Did you know you wanted to be a combat fighter when you were a child?
AE: Oh, got it. Yes, since I was I child. We, the boys, started talking about what we’d want to be when we grow up. So boys would say, an astronaut, a jet pilot, a policeman, and I always said I’ll be an athlete. And so it happened, my childhood dream came true, I got to be a professional athlete.
RT: What is your current world rating?
AE: Well, I’m in the world’s top ten.
RT: Talking about Golden Boy Promotions’ offer to you to start a boxing pro career which you’ve accepted, what do you think it’ll give to you, becoming a boxing pro? And does this mean you will not take part in other mixed competitions?
AE: No, I’ll keep competing in combat sambo, in mixed fights, I’ll just be boxing alongside. It’ll just expand my range, that’s it. I’ll be in greater demand, just busier.
RT: Ok, but if you have long since wanted to be a boxer why did you start as a sambo combat fighter?
AE: Sambo? Because I was introduced to sambo by my elder brother, I followed his footsteps. He used to take me with him to gym and his sports classes. First, I just watched them work out and fight, the elder boys…
RT: Your elder brother- you mean Fyodor?
AE: Yes, Fyodor. And while other kids played with toys, little cars and so on, I played with weights and gym equipment.
RT: The Klitschkos have made it their principle that they would never fight each other. Would you fight your brother?
AE: No, we will never fight each other. It happened earlier that we both got into the same finals in combat sambo tournaments, and then I had to approach the organizers and tell them that we are not going to fight each other. They asked us really hard, and so we did it but we didn’t fight for real, we just made a show, we showed our best routines. Many people who saw it still wonder whether it was a real or a fake fight.
And Fyodor was always the winner. In combat sambo I’ve been defeated only three times, and all three were against Fyodor. (laughs)
RT: And who is really stronger, you or Fyodor?
AE: In reality? Of course Fyodor is stronger.
RT: Can you be friends with the athlete you fight?
AE: Of course I can. We are friends with all of the athletes, and after… it’s sports, there’s nothing personal.
RT: So an athlete who defeats you doesn’t make you hate him. You don’t feel like you’d want to take revenge on him?
AE: That’s what makes all the difference in the professional sports, as opposed to amateur. You can’t get emotional in a pro fight. You have to have a clear head and just do what you’ve learnt to do.
RT: Does it ever happen that you feel sorry for the guy you’re fighting?
AE: No, it doesn’t. It’s sports, it’s not a war or a street fight. In sports, it’s the referees’ job to feel sorry for the athlete.
RT: Sambo, or the art of self-defense. People call it fighting without rules. But obviously there are rules there as well. But for a layman who doesn’t know anything about it this kind of sport may look like ultimate fighting. What things are categorically forbidden in sambo fighting?
AE: Ultimate fighting or fighting without rules. This name was actually invented in Russia. In fact, it’s called mixed martial arts. That allows a wide variety of fighting techniques. There are rules and restrictions in mixed martial arts. You cannot strike your rival below the belt. You cannot beat him if he lies on the floor. It’s forbidden to hit your opponent on the back of the head. I think that this is the most universal and noble contemporary sport.
RT: Are there any mean methods and techniques?
AE: Maybe there are mean tricks. But I don’t know them and I’ve never thought of learning them.
RT: How many crucial points are there in a human body by hitting which you can actually kill a person?
AE: Very many. I know that there’ve been cases in boxing when professional boxers died upon receiving a gloved blow in the head. And when a well-trained professional boxer delivers the same kind of blow on the head of an untrained person, this, I think, is going to be lethal without searching for any kind of lethal points.
RT: But sambo is also a very traumatic sport. You yourself must have had a lot of physical traumas?
AE: Yes, I’ve had a lot of them. During a fight? Yes, of course. I don’t want to get injured on purpose. But during one of my combats in Japan I broke my arm in two places as I was delivering a series of blows to my opponent.
RT: So you broke it yourself?
AE: Yes, I was hitting the opponent feverishly, I just couldn’t stop. The opponent was still standing on his feet under my blows. It so happened, that I struck him (may be with the first or the last blow) in the forehead and broke my arm.
RT: How do you feel before getting in the ring?
AE: It’s just a feeling of anticipation. Because I am a heavyweight and a top-ranked athlete whom everybody wants to see, organizers always want me to appear in the final stage of the competitions. I feel nothing. I am just looking forward to the fight.
RT: Are you nervous or frightened? Do you feel anything like that? Or are you absolutely sure that you are going to win?
AE: Of course. I don’t go into the ring to lose. I go there only to win, to beat and defeat my rival.
RT: Do you have any psychological training ahead of every combat? Do you stand in front of a mirror telling yourself: “You are the best, you are the best and you will win!”
AE: No, there’s no such thing as special psychological training. I train very well during my training sessions psychologically, physically and functionally. You cannot spare yourself, you should train with devotion; you should go all out in a gym and do what your coach teaches you to do. Naturally, you should also use your gray matter.
RT: What do you think about while you are in the ring? Are there moments when you distract your attention from the combat and think about anything else?
AE: No, I don’t have such moments. I simply fix my mind on my rival, the judge and my corner. But I can hear the spectators and their reaction. I stay cool during the fight in order not to get too excited and not to break down. I am not overwhelmed by emotions.
RT: What do you think is decisive for victory? Is it the tactics of fighting or physical strength?
AE: The two things are complementary. Everything goes together here: your discipline of excellence, your desire, your endurance, physical strength and functional training as well as technical characteristics. A combination of all these factors turns an athlete into the champion – the winner.
RT: And how do you recuperate after a combat?
AE: I spend time with my family and with my children. Whenever I have a chance, I go home.
RT: A lot of stuff is written about you and your brothers in the Internet. I don’t think that all the information there is true, but I’ve read several times that when they were small, they ate only potatoes. Is it true?
AE: Yes, it’s true. We came from a poor family. There were four children in our family. So we ate only potatoes. At one time I shared a jacket with my brother.
RT: They also write that you once went to hunt a bear with a knife. Is it true?
RT: Did you kill it?
RT: Did you need more adrenaline? You haven’t got enough of it in your blood?
AE: I have enough of everything. I did that for fun.
RT: How did it occur to you to go to hunt a bear?
AE: I saw that on TV.
RT: How large was your knife? Can you show it?
AE: I don’t know, it was big enough to cut a bear and stab it under its heart. But that was not a sword.
RT: So, did you see a bear and just kill him with this knife?
AE: Yes, I also used a long stick, which you put to a bear’s neck when the animal is already lying on its back with the four paws up and is trying to get up again.
RT: Oh, my God! What did you do with that bear after that? Did you eat the bear’s meat?
AE: Yes, we ate it.
RT: Let’s talk about your tattoos now. Do you have any favorite tattoo which means to you more than all the other tattoos?
AE: No, tattoos are my hobby. Whenever I see a good drawing, I go to my friends who can professionally apply this drawing to my body. When I have free time, I also go to them and together we invent a new tattoo.
RT: All the tattoos which I saw in the Internet are related to prison life. Why is it so? Or am I wrong?
AE: I think it’s just your delusion.
RT: Really? I also know that you often visit penal colonies for under age children.
AE: I can’t say that I go there too often. I do it periodically.
RT: What do you do there?
AE: I talk to them. I try to return to normal life those young guys who have taken a false step in life and accidentally found themselves behind the prison gates. I want to show them that there’s another side of this life.
I also go to children’s homes. My wife and I have a tradition that after each duel I spend half of my earnings on helping children’s homes. We get in touch with them and ask them what they need and buy and bring them things which they mention in a list.
RT: What’s your greatest achievement in life do you think?
AE: I think it hasn’t come yet.