[EXCLUSIVE] Alexander Shlemenko: I trained for my title defense with Michael Bisping.
The Bellator middleweight champion- Alexander Shlemenko-spoke with ValeTudo.ru about his upcoming title defense against Brennan "The Irish Bad Boy" Ward
On Friday, March 25th Omsk’s one and only Alexander "The Storm" Shlemenko (49-7) will once again step into the cage to defend his middleweight title against last season’s Grand Prix winner- Brennan "The Irish Bad Boy" Ward (9-1).
For Shlemenko, this will be the third title defense, which he won last year in February against Maiquel Falcao. ValeTudo.ru had a chance to speak with "The Storm" about his training camp and preparations for Ward, fame, extension of his contract withBellator and much more.
ValeTudo.ru: Hello Alexander. You are scheduled to fight Brennan Ward this Friday. Where and with whom were you preparing?
Alexander: Just like for all of my fights, the main training camp was in Omsk, Russia at "Saturn MMA Gym" with my students. Plus we have had guys visiting from Tyumen and Kursk; it was something like a collective training camp.
Here, in the US, I trained in the same gyms as before. The only difference this time was that I trained less at Blackhouse, because I sparred with Michael Bisping 3 times a week. I figured that it would be more useful for me because Bisping is an orthodox stance fighter and so is Brennan Ward. AtBlackhouse, most of the fighters in my weight class are southpaws.
ValeTudo.ru: Are you happy with your training camp and theoverall preparations?
Alexander: Every camp I do something different and something new, so I cannot say that it will work in a fight before the fight actually happens. I can answer this question after the bout.
ValeTudo.ru: Ward is a base wrestler. Did you pay specific attention to defensive wrestling techniques?
Alexander: I constantly pay specific attention to these techniques; we train all aspects of the game. However, only the fight will show whether or not it will pay off.
ValeTudo.ru: What is your plan for the fight?
Alexander: To be honest, I always want to finish the fight quickly. However, it is impossible to predict whether or not it will happen. Of course, I want to win in a spectacular fashion, by knockout.
ValeTudo.ru: Before the fight you participated in filming of promotion videos, giving interviews and so on, does this get in the way of preparations for the fight?
Alexander: This is part of my job and I take it as so. In any case, this works well for me, people recognize me more and more especially in the US. They take pictures on the streets. This shows me that my work does not go unrecognized and that is naturally pleasant for me.
ValeTudo.ru: I saw your last interview; you have tremendously improved your English. Where and with whom have you been working on it?
Alexander: It depends on my mood. Sometimes I like to speak English and I do it. Sometimes it is just easier for me to speak Russian. In terms of where I have polished my English skills: I have been coming to the US often; I live here and train here. Naturally, my skills have improved because of constantcommunication with English speakers. For now, it is easier for me to only speak about basic topics, not more complicated ones such as explaining my preparation processes and training techniques. My vocabulary is still quite limited.
Americans understand me, which is the most important point. I don’t contend to be ideal in pronunciation and punctuation because at the end of the day I am Russian (laughs).
ValeTudo.ru: You have recently signed a new contract withBellator. Are you satisfied with the new terms?
Alexander: For now- yes. To be precise, it was more about certain additions and corrections done to the old contract rather than a brand new one. The changes were mostly concerning my salary- it grew and that pleases me.
ValeTudo.ru: How long will you be in Bellator according to this contract?
Alexander: I am not sure I can disclose such details (laughs). I think at least two more years.
ValeTudo.ru: When your contract expires, do you plan on signing with the UFC?
Alexander: In 2005 I watched PRIDE and Prix and at that time no one even knew what UFC was. All the fighters wanted to be in PRIDE. Who knows what will happen in the MMA world in a year or two? Possibly, a new organization besides UFC orBellator will come along and become the top organization. The MMA world is evolving very quickly right now.
ValeTudo.ru: So we live- we learn?
Alexander: Yes. I do not want to rush ahead. For right now, I like to stay in Bellator.
I do not have rich sponsors in Russia; I travel to and live in the US on my own funds. Because of this I approach my career as a professional and I personally think that fighters should earn good salaries. We have a hard occupation.
ValeTudo.ru: It is hard not to agree.
Alexander: That is why one should never rush. No one knows what is waiting ahead- maybe the UFC will not exist in the future.
ValeTudo.ru: This is almost a conspiracy theory or insider information, Alexander!
Alexander: (Laughs) No insider information. It’s just that I am not thinking about going elsewhere for now.
ValeTudo.ru: What can you say about Andrei Koreshkov’sperformance in the quarter finals?
Alexander: Everything went very well, I was pleased. As you have noticed our strategy has worked. We worked those body kicks especially for his opponent’s looping punches. My fight plan has worked out and I was pleased.
When a student listens to his teacher- everything tends to work out quickly and superbly. This goes for Andrei and Alexander (Sarnavskyi). As we have seen on previous occasions, sometimes Alexander and Andrei stop listening to me and stop executing the fight plan during the actual fight. This does not end well.
We are working on this aspect and everything went great in the quarterfinals.
ValeTudo.ru: Andrei’s punch was a thing of beauty. Knee to the jaw and a body kick at the same time.
Alexander: In reality the kick was not a complicated move in itself, we just knew our opponent well. When he throws those looping hooks, he loses sight of his opponent and brings his chin down. It just happened that Andrei was throwing a body kick,but his opponent brought his chin down and hit it on Andrei’s knee. He did everything himself, our job was to put the knee there at the right time and we did exactly that (laughs).
ValeTudo.ru: Ward came up to you at the post- fight conference after you knocked Doug Marshall out at Bellator 109. We have a persistent rumor that he smelled like alcohol. Is this true?
Alexander: It is true (laughs). I said it myself. I do not drink so I have a special sense of smell for alcohol. I can tell right away if someone has been drinking. I would not say that Ward was very drunk, but he definitely consumed some alcohol.
ValeTudo.ru: You have an opportunity to beat this bad habit out of Brennan and teach him a lesson, maybe with your signature punch to the liver?
Alexander: Why? (Laughs) It’s one’s own personal business.
ValeTudo.ru: What will you say to you fans?
Alexander: Thank you for your support. I will say this again, I am not some superhuman- I am a regular guy, just like everyone else living in the Russian Federation. The only difference is that I fight, display my skills and further my family kin. It might not always work but I try my best.
ValeTudo.ru: Thank you, Alexander! May health and victory come to you!
Alexander: Спасибо! (Spasibo-thank you!) I will try to bring more entertaining fights in the future.
*(Special thanks to Alexei Zhernakov- the manager of theRusFighters Team- who helped make this interview happen).