In our beloved sport, there are some athletes that have stood the test of time and combat admirably, and some who really should think about hanging up the gloves. When you're inside a cage or ring, mixing up several combat styles, issuing beatings sometimes means taking them. As the years wear on and fresh, young faces start populating the cards, we tend to see the guys that were in the thick of things when MMA first started gaining momentum, sort of fade into the shadows. Very few fighters can pull off a Randy Couture successfully, and Saturday night, we'll be seeing another 40+ athlete stepping into the octagon again, in Vladimir Matyushenko.
Of all the late 90's, early 2000 era fighters, Matyushenko might just be the one that can make 42 look like the new 30. He's a hard training, dedicated athlete whose only losses in the last four years have been to UFC light heavyweight champion, Jon Jones, and light heavyweight contender, Alexander Gustafsson. I have to give respect and admiration to a guy that's been fighting since 1997, yet can still make some noise in a very tough division. I recently spoke with Vladimir, and got thoughts on his upcoming fight with another strong wrestler, Ryan Bader.
I don't think cage rust will be much of an issue for me this time, because I've been very active with my training. I have been training other guys during the down time, and then had my own camp now. To be able to train my teammates during my recovery was good for me psychologically. It's helped me to prepare myself mentally for my fight. I think I'm pretty ready.
The Janitor feels that this fight with Bader is going to be the measuring stick on the rest of his career, and that a win will indicate career longevity for him.
I think, at this point, it will be a good indication of how far I can go. This fight, if I win, will show that I'm the best I can be. I feel that is the case. I don't wish to end my career yet, because it's a really good time for MMA. It's on a totally different level, and is getting exposure like the bigger sports.
When it comes to Jon Jones, Matyushenko looks to him as an educational tool, and doesn't find too many glaring weaknesses in his game.
He's constantly evolving. I've been watching him since my loss, and I think I underestimated him at the time. Now, I'm looking at him, and learning from him. I was watching his fight with Ryan Bader, and I want to be like Jon Jones in that fight. I think guys like him, Lyoto Machida and Anderson Silva, well, I learn a lot from them. That's what's so cool about this sport. You can learn from so many different fighters. There's so much variety and so many different styles, that every time you watch a card, a new move is coming out. It's a constant learning process, and it's very enjoyable to do.
Vladimir's outlook on the MMA world in general is a positive one. He's one of those guys that can find the silver lining in any cloud. I asked him if he found anything at all to be unhappy about with his chosen profession, organization or just something that might be bothering him about the current landscape of the sport, but he simply responded,
Not at all. It's a great time to be in MMA. If someone finds anything wrong with it, they should watch the fights and check out how things were done 10 years ago. They won't be complaining for long.
You can follow Vladimir via his Twitter account, @vladthejanitor