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Warrior spirit: Nikita Krylov talks UFC 171, Ovince St. Preux, Ukraine crisis and more

Nikita Krylov is quickly becoming a mixed martial arts (MMA) cult favorite in Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) due to his unique nickname of "Al Capone" and a knack for knockouts like the one he notched against Walt Harris at UFC 169. Find out a little more about the first Ukrainian fighter to grace the Octagon right here.

Nikita "Al Capone" Krylov
Nikita "Al Capone" Krylov
© YK Promotion Tim Leidecker

Nikita Krylov fights tomorrow night (March 15, 2014) at UFC 171 inside American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas, against Ovince St. Preux in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) light heavyweight division (full preview here.)

Their bout will serve as "Al Capone's" debut in the 205-pound weight class and his third fight under the ZUFFA banner.

His first appearance came during UFC 164 against Soa Palelei, in one of the sport's most criticized tilts in recent memory. In an interview with, Krylov attributed this to the level of competition in UFC.

"The main reason is based on the fast pace of our sport. Today you can lose shamefully and tomorrow you will win a bright victory. Most important to me is to be a warrior and always fight to the end. Good results won’t be long in coming then."

"Capone" bounced back with a 25-second highlight reel knockout of Walt Harris at UFC on FOX 10, a trend that could continue at both light heavyweight and heavyweight, if the 22-year-old ends up fighting within two weight classes going forward.

"My main goal is to earn my spot in the UFC. Who will stand in the opposite corner of the Octagon doesn’t matter to me. In order to challenge champions like Jon Jones or Cain Velasquez, I will have to put in a lot more work first."

If things went Krylov's way, he'd be putting in ample work in 2014.

"I fought 13 times in 2012 and five times in 2013. I want to do at least five fights again this year and I hope that the UFC will give me the opportunities to stay as active as possible."

But sadly, all of this understandably takes a back seat to problems back in Krylov's country of Ukraine, which is currently knee-deep in a political conflict with Russia.

The first-ever UFC fighter of Ukrainian descent weighed in on the current situation:

"The situation in our country is of course extremely unpleasant. I am not a political person, but this has affected all spheres Ukrainian life. I sincerely hope it will have a fast and especially peaceful ending as our people have suffered a lot in recent months."

He also had a word of advice to those potentially thinking about getting involved in the revolution.

"In the light of recent events, I would like to encourage all my brothers and sisters to do sports and battle only in the ring."

When Krylov tipped the scales against Walt Harris, he was dramatically underweight for a heavyweight, I asked him if this was something that he felt helped contribute to his victory and whether he felt more comfortable fighting at 205-pounds.

"After my UFC debut, we focused a lot on functional fitness and as a result, my weight dropped dramatically. When I left Donetsk for Chicago I was 222 pounds and with the strains of travelling and the different type of food I ended up tipping the scales at 218. In the end my weight had no effect on the outcome of the fight. It only showed me the way that perhaps at light heavyweight I can fight even more effectively."

Krylov will be forced to fight "more effectively" against the streaking St. Preux.

"I am not looking past St. Preux at all. The upcoming challenge is always the biggest, so I want to focus 100 percent on that and not think about what could happen afterwards."

Both men have an affinity for finishing fights and with the increased number of decisions in UFC as of late, I asked Krylov if he takes pride in not going the distance. While answering this question, he also conveyed that his cardio is strong, if it's ever needed.

"I like to finish fights quickly and I will continue to fight in the same spirit. Should a fight go into the later rounds, I am well prepared for that as well. Me getting tired in my first fight was more due to nerves than to physical preparation."

Look out for Krylov on Saturday, currently sitting at +300 on most betting sites, as an investment in "Al Capone" could prove valuable.

Keep tabs on everything UFC 171 right here.

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