'When I land, it's night-night': Ex-UFC star Artem Lobov on bare-knuckle boxing debut
Irish-based Russian mixed martial arts star Artem Lobov is about to embark on the latest chapter of his combat sports career, as he leaves the UFC behind and takes on a fresh challenge in the world of bare-knuckle boxing.
Lobov built a reputation as one of mixed martial arts' most willing competitors, competing on the regional scene across Europe for promotions including the respected ACB and Cage Warriors before getting his shot at the UFC through their reality show, The Ultimate Fighter.
And, after landing a spot on the UFC roster, Lobov accepted every challenge thrown his way before eventually being granted his release earlier this year.
Now freshly signed to the US-based bare-knuckle promotion, Bare Knuckle FC, Lobov is ready to take center stage this weekend in a main-event bout at the organization's fifth show, BKFC 5, where he'll take on fellow former UFC featherweight, Jason 'The Kid' Knight.
Lobov's bout with Knight takes place on Saturday, and heads a card that features fellow former UFC fighters Isaac Vallie-Flagg, Chase Sherman, and Chris Leben.
And in an exclusive interview with RT Sport, 'The Russian Hammer' says he is looking forward to embracing a new challenge after a life spent competing under MMA rules.
"I feel this is an advantageous sport for me," he said.
"It's no secret that I always struggled with wrestlers - this was my downfall in the UFC. I was able to strike with guys like Michael Johnson. He is a Top 10 fighter in the world, he's the only guy to beat Tony Ferguson in the UFC. He's the guy who knocked out Dustin Poirier, who is going to be fighting for a UFC belt right now. And I went toe to toe with this guy and I made him wrestle - he didn't want to stand with me.
"As you can see, I clearly have a big, big advantage if it's just a stand-up fight, and especially if it's just a stand-up fight with hands only. I've never been knocked out - this chin is made out of granite. Born in Russia, forged in Ireland, as I say. So I look forward to the challenge. I think it's going to suit me really well and I'm going to knock out a few guys."
The challenge also sees Lobov competing without gloves for the first time. And while the heavy-handed Russian says he's confident that he can score a string of knockouts in bare-knuckle competition, he also acknowledges the dangers of fighting without any protection on his hands.
"At first sight, it might seem more dangerous, but if you look at it more closely you realize that actually, it's a very technical sport," he explained.
"The fact that you're not wearing any gloves - no protection for your hands, you'll break your hands very easily - [means] you have to be very precise, you have to be technical. You can't just start swinging like crazy. You'll just end up breaking your hands and that's it, there are no other tools you can use in the fight. There's are also less places to cover and to shell up. It's very hard to do that - you don't have a [gloved] cushion to protect yourself.
“It's an interesting challenge, and that's what I like. It makes my mind work, it makes my brain work. I have to figure it out and I really look forward to competing in this great sport."
Lobov says his transition from the all-encompassing world of mixed martial arts to the more specialized realm of bare-knuckle boxing is less of an issue than it might be for some, as he had previously pursued a boxing license earlier in his career.
But he revealed that, at the time, MMA was still an emerging sport and the boxing authorities would not allow him to pursue both boxing and MMA at the same time.
"I was told that in order for me to pursue a professional boxing career I would have to give up my career in MMA," he says.
"They just wouldn't allow me to compete in both disciplines at the same time. At that time, that was a deal-breaker for me. Of course, MMA was something that I really loved and wanted to compete in I was hoping to get into the UFC at that time, and everything that comes with it. So that was 'no deal' for me at the time."
Lobov's first test in bare-knuckle competition comes against Knight, a fellow former UFC featherweight who broke into the ranked positions during his career before eventually departing the organization.Also on rt.com Conor McGregor still wants Khabib rematch, says teammate Artem Lobov (VIDEO)
He says he has huge respect for the American, but says his own striking prowess should hold sway on fight night. And the heavy-handed featherweight says he'll mark his debut with a knockout victory.
"Jason is a very good fighter, I have a lot of respect for him as a fighter," Lobov admits.
"Not only is he a good fighter, he was a Top 10 UFC featherweight. But if you break him down and you look at how he achieved that, his style is very diverse. He's good everywhere. But in boxing he'll only have strikes, he'll only have his hands.
"Even if he lands some shots on me, everybody knows this chin is made out of granite. I'll just smile at him and keep walking forward. And when I land, it's night-night Jason."