Sergey Kharitonov (5-3, 3 KO's) (21-5 MMA) is a bit of a paradox. He's a fan favorite and very popular with the masses, yet interactions with him are limited because he doesn't speak much English.
Usually the fanbase is limited to reading translations of interviews he has conducted with Russian-language outlets. But this weekend he is in Denver, Colorado for the GLORY 16 DENVER Heavyweight Contender Tournament, so we were able to spend a little time with him.
Kharitonov is one of four heavyweight demolition experts fighting it out to win the tournament and it's main prize. The winner will be dubbed ‘The Contender' and allowed entry into the world title tournament taking place later this year.
The other three fighters are Errol Zimmerman (101-11-1, 42 KO's), Ben Edwards (36-9-3, 32 KO's) and Anderson ‘Braddock' Silva (37-10-1, 24 KO's), the latter being Kharitonov's semi-final stage opponent.
As anyone with even a passing familiarity with any of these fighters will know, the odds of these bouts going the distance are laughable.
SPIKE TV is airing the tournament live on Saturday at 9pm ET. The card also features a welterweight title fight and Pat ‘HD' Barry's debut for GLORY.
Here's what Kharitonov had to say to Bloody Elbow on Thursday:
I watched video of your training where you are in the mountains and training outdoors - is this a regular thing you do or was it specifically for this fight?
We made a special preparation for this fight, so the training was conducted in intensified mode. Our training camp was situated on the 2500 meters above sea level. Part of that involved going to the mountains.
You are looking fast on the pads; also it seems to me maybe more kicks in training than you usually do? Are you working a more complete kickboxing game?
We are set up to win! I always practice a complete kickboxing game, kicks and knees as well, though it is true that in the fight I normally use my hands and if I get the KO, it will probably be by my hands rather than anything else.
Funny, because Errol Zimmerman says he is the most complete fighter in this tournament and that you, Anderson and Ben Edwards are basically "100% boxers who only use their hands". Do you think that is true?
Hmm. The truth will come out in the fights.
This GLORY 16 tournament is four-man but you've also fought in eight-man and sixteen-man tournaments. Which do you prefer?
I think a real fighter should be 100 per cent ready to compete in any circumstances.
You and Errol have know each other years, trained together many times, been to Thailand together... Is it not weird when you are friends with a guy but then you might have to get into the ring and try to destroy each other?
It seems like in MMA guys always say "No I cannot fight my friend" but in kickboxing the guy will be like "Yes, I will fight my friend - and, because he is my friend, I am really going to try and KO him."
Yes we are friends in a real life but if we meet on the ring we will fight. It's only sport, there's no bad feeling there. But even though we are friends, once we are in the ring... there are no friends in the ring.
Daniel Ghita is now #1 in the ranks at heavyweight. Do you ever want to get the rematch? Your 2009 fight was very hard on you but you really didn't know anything about kickboxing back then.
Yes, definitely I would like to get that rematch if I have a chance.
Would I like to return the favor by finishing him with leg kicks? Ha! I don't know... it would probably be by hands if I finished him.
Your former friend Aleks Emelianenko seems to be having some problems. Every week it seems there is some new controversy with him. Do you think you think he is completely finished as a fighter? Does it seem like there is any chance of you two meeting in the ring to fight it out?
I don't think he will return to the sport. And anyway, he isn't interesting for me as a fighter, [as an opponent], so we will not meet in the ring.
There was a Russian-language interview where Aleks had referred to you as ‘Serezha' and you responded angrily, declaring "to people such as him I am not ‘Serezha' but Sergey Valerevich."
Yes I remember this incident. He is not a friend of mine, so I had to react in this way.
[Note - Sergey's translator at this point explains the significance of this. In the Russian culture, it is standard to have an affectionate name used by your friends and then a full name used in more formal circumstances.
Russian readers will have understood that by rejecting Aleksander's right to address him as Serezha, and instructing to him use the extremely formal, full-length ‘Sergey Valyerovich', Kharitonov was slapping Aleks down and implying that there was no cordiality between them.)
The GLORY 16 DENVER tournament is the last fight on your contract with GLORY. You've competed at the top level in MMA and kickboxing and there have been rumors that the UFC is thinking of making you an offer. Which one would you go for if two equal contracts were placed in front of you?
We would have to see. But my heart belongs to kickboxing. I am looking forward to signing a new contract with GLORY.
Which sport is harder on the fighter's body, MMA or kickboxing?
I think these both kinds of martial arts are hard to practice.
In your opinion, what is the best fighting organization there has ever been, and why?
Once it was PRIDE, now it is GLORY.