One could argue that Artem Lobov’s infamy in hand-to-hand boxing already rivals the name he has built for himself participating in MMA over the past decade.
During his seven-fight run with the UFC, Lobov was a relatively small fish – with stubborn and dedicated following – in a small pond, known for his never-say attitude, his close friendship with megastar Conor McGregor and his will to enter the octagon with more accredited competition. Despite only winning a pair of UFC contests, “The Russian Hammer” went the distance with Cub Swanson, Andre Fili and Ryan Hall.
Lobov went on to become a centerpiece of the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship in 2019, bringing power and legitimacy to the upstart promotion that sought to revitalize an age-old combat sport for the 21st century. Two years ago he was headlining BKFC 6, the biggest event in the promotion’s brief history, which saw Lobov defeat two-time boxing champion Paulie Malignaggi.
On Saturday, Lobov will face another opponent with a superior boxing pedigree to Denys Berinchyk, boxing silver medalist for Ukraine in 2012 who currently sports a professional record of 15-0 (8 KOs). Their hand-to-hand fight takes place at a Mahatch FC event in Kiev, which is sponsored by betting site Parimatch and streams live on FITE pay-per-view at 1 p.m. ET / 10 a.m. PT.
It’s no secret that Lobov is looking for big payoff fights to close his career and although he is considering getting into the celebrity boxing circus with the Jake and Logan Pauls of the world, he is convinced that overthrowing Berinchyk will give him enough name to attract the interest of more legitimate fighters.
“Which got me a win over Denys,” Lobov told MMA Fighting when asked what type of fight got him a seven-figure contract. “After beating him, I’m going to have a victory over a two-time world boxing champion and a victory over an Olympic silver medalist. Who the hell in boxing can say that? Only a handful of guys. Number one, they don’t fight, that’s the first thing, and number two, only a few guys have those kind of high quality wins. When I have that, that’s all for me, it prepares for a big boxing fight.
“I don’t even have to go through the circus fights. I can just have a big, big boxing fight against one of the guys, like a Ryan Garcia, so I could do it. It doesn’t have to be the best dog, but let’s say Garcia and someone are fighting and one of them loses. The loser is a good fight for me because I feel like the loser will want to bounce back from their loss and they’ll probably see me as an easier fight, but still a big fight. A fight that will get people’s attention, a fight that will always bring a lot of interest and therefore a lot of money, so I can see myself in one of those fights. This is the reason why I am also dropping the weight class because this 135 division seems to be very, very interesting in boxing. There seems to be a lot going on in there, so I want to be able to accept these opportunities if they ever come up. “
Lobov’s fight with Berinchyk will be contested at 140 pounds, five pounds lighter than the featherweight division where he competed in the UFC. He’s booked for five two-minute rounds, the same set of rules he fought under in the BKFC. He believes that for unarmed boxing to thrive, it is important for organizations to strive to recognize a universal set of rules.
Mahatch FC fights have already featured competitors fighting in jeans surrounded by sandbags. While the sandbags will be in attendance, Lobov said he and Berinchyk will be wearing more traditional boxing gear.
Although he is interested in high-profile traditional boxing matches, Lobov believes the sky is the limit for the growth of unarmed combat. He calls the 10-minute format “go, go, go action” as one of the reasons for its appeal, as well as the way it showcases the lighter weight classes. He also thinks it’s safer in the long run for his participants.
“[Another reason] I believe it’s brain damage, ”Lobov said. “I think as more and more research is done in this area like it was with the NFL, there will be more and more now, and when people talk about the dehydration that’s happening. installs and what it does to the brain, because our brain has very little protection. It is covered with this water, liquid around the brain, and then the inside of your head is very, very sharp. So every time as you get hit in the head, your brain moves, it vibrates and it cuts the edges, it hits the edges. Obviously, because there is water around it that slows it down and reduces the amount of damage However, when the dehydration sets in, that little extra protection is no longer there or it is less there than it is at the start of the fight. So when you fight for 36 minutes like in boxing or when you fight for 25 minutes like in MMA, dehydration sets in.
“I think there is more evidence of that, if you look at boxing and whenever an unfortunate event where a fighter dies, which happens quite often in boxing, it tends to happen in the later rounds. for a number of reasons. Dehydration, one of them, and, of course, cumulative damage. So I think when it becomes more and more in the foreground of people’s thoughts, they will want to reduce the number of turns. This is where the bare fist comes in. Short rounds, less damage, more action, everyone wins.
Lobov will be the biggest man of the fight night and he expects it to be a major advantage when he and Berinchyk go head to head against Mahatch’s sandbags. The eccentric Berinchyk called Lobov earlier this year after a knockout of Jose Sanchez in March and Lobov is eager to finally trade punches with him.
Berinchyk’s professional and Olympic experience is expected to be a major factor heading into Saturday, but Lobov sees his feud with Malignaggi as beneficial to his preparation for this fight.
“It will definitely help me,” Lobov said. “More than anything it’s mentally because when you’re training for a fight you may think you’re ready for it, but you really don’t know the level until you’re with this guy.
“So having been there with a double world champion, I see that there is nothing that surprises me. I saw it, I know what it feels like, it’s like I thought. In my preparation, I trained a lot with top boxers, but sparring is one thing, fighting is another. So having fought such a top boxer I know what to expect and it really helps me a lot in this camp. Other than that, I think my main thing here would be the size and experience with bare hands, not just the fighting.
A victory over Berinchyk not only brings Lobov closer to his goal of facing a renowned boxer, but it would also add to the unique legacy he has built among fight fans. Lobov admits he finds “a bit of humor” when he hears someone call him “the GOAT” – a persistent meme that comes up every time his name appears on social media – but is also proud of his work , although its results have been mixed to say the least. Lobov’s MMA record currently sits at 14-15-1 (1 NC).
The list of fighters with records below 500 who remain relevant before their 11th year of fighting is short, but Lobov has found a way. And it’s a path he doesn’t expect to follow anytime soon.
“Nobody would support me before, I was the only guy who ever did and nobody would support me, because who would support me?” Lobov said of his debut. “A promoter who has a bunch of padded record fighters?” He’s not going to say that what I’m saying is the truth because it means sitting on his whole list. Who is going to do it? The fighters themselves who all have padded records? Of course, they won’t. Those who have always supported me and whom I will always respect are the go-between and they are the people in the know. They always know how people pull out all the time, they always know people don’t want to fight all the time, and then they have a guy like me, a breath of fresh air like a lot of them l ‘said themselves. A guy who is ready to fight anyone, who is ready to fight in the shortest possible time, who never backs down.
“So, for me, I have nothing to be ashamed of. I feel like I have had a real warrior’s road. A warrior who has no scars is a warrior who has no never fought. And my face is covered in scars. There is literally not a thumb on my face that has not been sewn up. All of this is the result of fierce battles, the result of fighting against anyone and everyone in their own backyard f * cking most of the time. So I don’t have to be ashamed. When I look at myself in the mirror, I know I have lived the warrior way.