Alexander Shlemenko didn't know what to do with himself.
If "Storm" had his way, he'd be fighting six or seven times a year, you don't have 54 professional fights before your 30th birthday otherwise. But he put aside his desires for a chance to to become Bellator Middleweight champion earlier this year and he did just that, knocking out Manuel Falcao in the second round of Bellator 88 to claim the vacant belt.
The leader of the Rusfighter team spent his entire training camp this time around in the United States, something he's never done. He'd much rather test himself in the harsh Russian environment, and he'd rather be fighting someone he doesn't normally train with.
The talented Russian spoke to MMAmania.com during a guest appearance on The Verbal Submission about fighting someone he's familiar with, getting a chance to fight more often and how he prepares his post-fight dance moves in this exclusive interview.
Check it out:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Was it difficult preparing for this fight completely in California rather than in the snow in Russia? It's almost like that snow gives you superpowers over there.
Alexander Shlemenko: (laughs) It was extremely difficult to get ready for this fight without the snow. Frankly speaking, I have no idea how prepared I am for this fight due to the lack of snow. Only time will tell but I'm very, very, very, very tired of training without snow.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You're the first fighter in Bellator to defend the title with the injury replacement clause, so what's your opinion about that new policy and defending the belt against someone who didn't win the tournament?
Alexander Shlemenko: I'm very glad that Bellator has this new policy because I will be actually able to fight on September 7th. Before that, I had only fought once in Bellator for almost two years because of the situation with no opponents and the champion leaving. The good news now is that even though Doug Marshall is injured, that fight will still happen and in the future I will be able to fight more often and no matter if my opponent is injured or not, I will still fight.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Now you've already fought Brett Cooper once in Bellator and it was a three round war. What are your thoughts on fighting him again, this time for the title?
Alexander Shlemenko: I am sure that our second fight will be spectacular, a very tough fight but I'm not very happy about it that I will have to fight Brett Cooper because after we fought the first time, we trained a lot together, sparred together, grappled together and so it's never a pleasant feeling when you have to fight someone you know really well. But it's a fight, so I think it will be a spectacular fight all over again.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I was just going to ask that, because you spend time at Reign Training Center when you're in America and that's where he's based, so how much time have you worked with Brett in the past year or so leading up to this fight? How much do you think he knows about you?
Alexander Shlemenko: It's hard to say because we've had a few training camps here but if you put all our time together that we trained with each other, it would be maybe two months or more. I would say we know each other very well but I'm confident I can put together something secret for Brett and he'll be preparing something secret for me. We know each other very well but of course there will be something new for us in this fight.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Did you still end up finishing your training camp at Reign once you found out you were fighting each other, did you leave, or did you just end up training on opposite sides of the gym?
Alexander Shlemenko: No, when we learned that I'm fighting against Brett, we just changed the training facility. We still train at HB Ultimate and we ended up going to Blackhouse.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Are you working on any special dance moves or post-fight speeches in the event of a successful title defense? Everyone was in love with the rumba dance and the "I am beat you" post-fight speech after your last fight.
Alexander Shlemenko: (laughs) I never prepare something like that ahead of time. It is all natural and it depends on how the fight goes, my mood and if something cool comes out of me you'll see that but I'm not preparing anything in particular.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Your teammate and protege Andrey Koreshkov had a very difficult fight against Ben Askren at the last event, and it was hard to watch at times. Did that fight change your opinion on how much you train wrestling before big fights?
Alexander Shlemenko: I always respected wrestling and we always devoted a lot of time in our training to wrestling so I don't think this fight changed my opinion of wrestling one bit because before this fight we spent a lot of our time in training working it.
You can follow Alexander on Twitter @StormShlemenko.