While many would consider being sent to Siberia a punishment, Andrey Koreshkov was forged there.
Hailing from Omsk, Russia, the 22-year old has taken the Bellator welterweight division by storm in just eight short months, debuting this past March with a thunderous 86 second knockout of Taiwan Howard and then fulfilling his destiny by winning the Bellator season seven welterweight tournament this past Friday night (Nov. 30, 2012) at Bellator 82 by defeating former champion Lyman Good via unanimous decision.
His highlight reel is a sight to behold.
Koreshkov trains out of the elite Rusfighters Sport Club team of MMA fighters headed by two-time Bellator tournament winner Alexander Shlemenko and is surrounded by success. His teammate Alexander Volkov will be battling for the heavyweight tournament title in just 12 days.
After earning his shot at the title, the unbeaten Russian now awaits the winner of the Ben Askren vs. Karl Amoussou fight to discover his next opponent.
Koreshkov spoke to MMAmania.com (via a translator) during a special guest appearance on The Verbal Submission last night about the mental side of cage combat, Ben Askren being boring and even fighting Russian bears in this exclusive interview.
Check it out:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): If you wore an armored suit, would he fight a tournament full of Russian bears for the same prize money as the Bellator tournament and would it be easier or harder?*
Andrey Koreshkov: 9laughs) Well I would never do it. The first reason is I like Russian bears and I don't want to hurt them but the real answer is no matter type of costume I would wear, they would just rip my limbs off.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Bjorn Rebney told me you had been taking some English classes in preparation for the Bellator tournament. Do you think that will help you cross over to the American fans?
Andrey Koreshkov: Yes, I think that obviously English would be very helpful for me to communicate with my American fans. However, unfortunately at this moment I do not speak English as fluently as I would like to be in order to answer your questions in this interview so I will be answering Russian and Alexei will translate.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): What was it like for you fighting three times in three months for the tournament? Was there anything you could take from your coach Alexander Shlemenko's prior experience winning two tournaments?
Andrey Koreshkov: Yes it was tough and it was mostly tough psychologically rather than physically because each fight was a different big test and all my opponents were tough. Alexander Shlemenko helped me prepare not only physically for this tournament but also mentally. Now I'm glad to have a chance to rest a little bit now that I won.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): What helped you in your last fight against Lyman Good that you had developed since your tough fight against Jordan Smith in the quarterfinals to help you survive having him on your back and even take Lyman Good down in the third round?*
Andrey Koreshkov: First of all, I cannot say I changed a lot as a fighter since my fight against Jordan Smith. The thing that changed mostly was for my fight against Jordan I didn't have my trainer Alexander Shlemenko in my corner because he was in Russia at the time. For my semifinal and final fights, he helped me prepare to train and he was with me in my corner and it helped me a lot, mostly psychologically before my fights. I was in this position on my back many times before and I trained this position with Shlemenko and I knew how to defend myself. That's why I didn't panic, because I knew what I was doing. I know this position is bad but I knew how to defend myself.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You said how Shelemenko helps you mentally. What was specifically different for you having Shelemenko there and not having him there in regards to your nerves?
Andrey Koreshkov: When he's in my corner, it's much easier for me to follow my plan, to follow my gameplan and not make mistakes because I'm more focused. I feel like I carry myself better from him. He gives me his energy and I feel more confident in everything I do in the cage. That really really helps me to feel comfortable and confident and to be sure of everything I do and to do it right.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Looking back, how would you grade your performance in this tournament?
Andrey Koreshkov: Well I can that I'm satisfied with my performance but of course there were quite a few technical mistakes. I'm going to study them carefully with my coach and will work on them to become a better fighter in the future. I would give myself a B or a B+ for this tournament.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): How good did it feel during the fight that unexpected attacks like the lead uppercut were landing so effectively against Lyman Good. What allows you to be able to do things like that in the cage? *
Andrey Koreshkov: Well it was the gameplan to throw punches in bunches and I have a long range with long arms and I'm pretty good at throwing uppercuts even though they are a technically complicated type of strike that not everyone uses. I wanted to use what I do best and it worked out well in the fight.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): It looked like you had a very good speed advantage and were able to land strikes against Good without getting hit back. Did you sense that your speed was significantly better especially in that first round?
Andrey Koreshkov: Yes, I definitely felt it and that was actually also part of the plan. We knew it ahead of time before the fight and we knew we would be able to use it for the fight.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Have you heard anything specific about when you might be fighting the Ben Askren vs. Karl Amoussou winner? Are you planning to sit and wait for that fight or could you end up taking a fight in between like fellow tournament winner Daniel Straus did at featherweight?*
Andrey Koreshkov: Well I think Ben Askren is going to have an advantage in that fight. I don't know the date. Our fight is not set yet. Right now, I'll be glad to take a little rest until I feel completely recovered and then I'd like to start fighting again. We'll see how it goes. It depends on which day Bellator gives us and we'll see if I am able to fight for Bellator before but right now I cannot give an answer for this question.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I know you're confident in your skills, but good offensive grapplers and wrestlers have given your team some major problems in the past. How do you see yourself being able to overcome someone like Ben Askren's level of wrestling and control if that fight does indeed take place?
Andrey Koreshkov: Well first of all, I will have to work a lot on my takedown defense or standing up from the ground. I obviously will try to catch him coming. That will be the basic gameplan but it will be way more detailed. There will be plan A, plan B etcetera. Off the top of my head, that's the basic gameplan.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Many people have criticized Ben Askren, saying he's a boring fight. What do you think of him?
Andrey Koreshkov: Well yes I think Ben Askren has a huge talent to make people asleep during the fight but I will try to wake them up during the fight.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Now I've been told that you like to play World of Warcraft in some of your spare time. What type of character do you play?
Andrey Koreshkov: Orc warrior
Gerry Rodriguez: How do you think you would fare against someone like Georges St. Pierre?
Andrey Koreshkov: Well I think he's the best fighter in our weight class for a reason. The only thing I can promise if we fight tomorrow is I wouldn't be intimidated by him. I would try to do what I do best and stand and bang with him or catch him coming, perhaps use my distance. I will try to do my best but it's hard to speak about it at this moment.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Russian fighters have this stereotype of being emotionless, almost robots, these fierce warriors. Do you ever feel like breaking the mold and showcasing yourself as you begin to learn English better?
Andrey Koreshkov: Well it's very different before your fight when you're trying to get rid of your emotions. That's what Russian fighters do, to fight with no emotions and that's why we have this image. Of course, we are all people and we have emotions. I'd love to be able to communicate with my fans more and more and be able to show not just myself but my teammates that we are more than just fighters, we are people.
Andrey would like to thank his coach Alexander Shlemenko and his manager Alexei Zhernakov who helped him so much as a professional fighter. You can follow him on Twitter @SpartanKoresh.
So what do you think, Maniacs?
Does Koreshkov have what it takes to catch Askren on the way in with his power? Or will he be yet another victim to Ben Askren's smothering reign of terror in the Bellator welterweight division?
To listen to our completely conversation with Andrey Koreshkov, click here (interview begins at the 32:00 mark)
*questions submitted by Ben Thapa