Unbeaten Russian welterweight Andrey Koreshkov knows what's expected of him.
"The Spartan" is perhaps the most heavily hyped foreign prospect in any weight division, holding claim to the number one spot on Leland Roling's renowned 2012 welterweight scouting report and entering the Bellator season seven 170 pound tournament with a tremendous wave of momentum.
His own promoter, Bjorn Rebney, has sung his praises repeatedly, saying he's a fighter to keep your eyes on for this entire season.
But the 22 year old former ballroom dancer still has a lot to learn. After all, he just saw his own teammate Alexander Sarnavskiy experience his first career defeat just one week ago in the main event of Bellator 77.
After a tough test in the quarterfinals, Koreshkov is bracing himself for his most difficult opponent of his entire career, Marius Zaromskis, the Dream welterweight champion and former Strikeforce title challenger.
The Rusfighter will be competing tomorrow night (Oct. 26, 2012) on the Bellator 78 main card in Dayton, Ohio and he spoke with MMAmania.com (translated) about his ballroom dancing past, learning from his teammate's mistakes and his upcoming fight against Marius Zaromskis in this exclusive interview.
Check it out:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Are you a better fighter or a ballroom dancer?
Andrey Koreshkov: (laughs) Definitely a better fighter. My coach Alexander Shlemenko says I am a better ballroom dancer though.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I'm very interested in the transition. In your Bellator 74 promo video, you said the other kids beat you up when you were a dancer. Was that what fueled you to want to be a fighter?
Andrey Koreshkov: Well, I always always wanted to be a fighter but my parents didn't let me do it. They forced me to be a ballroom dancer instead so I had to go there but the decision wasn't mine. In a few years when I grew up, I wanted to do something else because I hated it so I switched to fighting and that was the main reason but yes, I was beat up because of the ballroom dancing and that made me want to fight and train too. Pretty soon, no one wanted to beat me up anymore.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Your teammate Alexander Sarnavskiy had a tough fight but he experienced his first loss in his 21 fight career last week. How did that affect you heading into this fight?
Andrey Koreshkov: Well, of course Sarnavkiy lost and I can't say I was pleased with it, but it did not affect my mental preparation before the fight at all.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): In your last fight, you went the full three rounds for the first time in your career in a hard-fought decision over Jordan Smith. Do you feel that was the type of fight you needed to get this tournament started?
Andrey Koreshkov: I think I really needed a fight like that because it was the first time I ever fought the full three rounds. It was a very good test for me to test my abilities as a fighter. Now, after that fight, my confidence in myself and my skills actually became better because now I know for sure I can fight for three rounds against a tough opponent at a high pace and feel okay with my conditioning. Yes, it helped my confidence and I do feel that was exactly the fight I needed to start this tournament.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): What is it about your coach Alexander Shlemenko that makes him such a good coach because he and his fighter have experienced tremendous success thus far?
Andrey Koreshkov: There are a few reasons for that. First of all, Shlemenko is a really smart person. He graduated from the university and his mentality is to be a coach but at the same time, he had hundreds of amateur fights and over 50 professional fights at a high level so he's able to transfer his full experience to his students. Throughout his career, he has coached himself the whole time so all his success that he's achieved has been credited to himself because he's coached himself. Basically, he's got huge experience and knowledge he can give to us as students and I think that's what really helps us a lot because we all know the mistakes he made in his career and he's able to relate his success to his students.