Russian's are returning to Bellator. After almost a year without a bout for the world's second largest MMA promotion, Alexander Volkov is booked again to fight on American shores. He'll be returning to Bellator this Friday, April 10th to take on Bellator newcomer and One FC vet Tony Johnson at Bellator 136. The former heavyweight champion sat down with Bloody Elbow to discuss his career and what exactly has kept him fighting on Russian soil for the past year.
You recently spent some time training in the mountains with Sergei Kharitonov and Denis Goltsov. That's not your normal camp, how did that come about?
I met Sergei Kharitonov about 4 years ago in Thailand, where I trained at the time, together with my teammate Mikhail Zayats. We met him and we became friends, and since then we've been training together for a while. We've exchanged some experience, even though he is a more experienced fighter than I am, so I am learning from him more than he learns from me most of the time. But, we enjoy training together and he is a great sparring partner for me.
What's it like being a heavyweight in MMA? Is it tougher to get good fights, or is that offset by the fact that you usually get good card placement?
Well, to be frank with you, I've never thought about it this way. But, I think that even though there are fewer fighters at heavyweight, there are still enough of them to get fights. And I think heavyweight is actually more, has more advantages with it, because people always want to see heavyweights, to see big guys fighting. So, I can't say that I have ever had troubles with that, with finding an opponent for me due to the fact that I compete at heavyweight.
Do Russian fans get excited for fighters from the Caucasus, as potential stars overseas?
I could say that all the Russians represent Russia and nationality doesn't matter. So, every time a fighter, doesn't matter if he's from the Caucuses or if he's from Moscow, or whatever, he represents Russia in larger promotions. Of course Russian MMA fans support them no matter where they are from.
Not long ago Fedor Emelianenko spoke about Russian fighters not seeking his advice or looking for his training. You've trained with him before, what do you think about his statements?
It's a difficult question, because first of all, not all the Russian fighters have the opportunity to come and train with Fedor. I myself got the chance and trained with him, and I think I, given the chance, I learned something from him. I know quite a few fighters who did train with him, they all learned from him a little bit. But also, he does a lot of seminars all over Russia, but people who come to the seminars, most of them are amateurs or just fans. Because, that is the kind of people who come to fighter seminars, not professional fighters. So, like now, I train in Moscow, I don't have the opportunity to come to where he lives and trains. I have my own training camp, I have my own team. And so, it makes it very difficult to answer this question, because not everyone has the chance to go and train with him.
What's been keeping you out of Bellator for the past year? Any specific problems?
I think that it's due to the fact that Vitaly Minakov, the champion, has been injured for a while. I was supposed to fight him right after my second 8-man tournament, but he was injured. So, me and my team, we decided to fight in Russia a couple of times. And now that Bellator was able to offer us a serious and tough, challenging opponent we took the fight right away just to keep fighting, to stay active. But, I think the main reason for me not fighting in Bellator for such a long period of time is the champion was injured and I wasn't offered any other opportunities to fight here.
Do you have any plans for approaching your fight with Johnson, any specific gameplan or preparation?
Well, I count on my stand up. I would like to fight him standing up. I think I would have to defend a lot of takedowns. Tony is a good wrestler. It depends on where the fight will go. I think if it will end up on the ground, if I will be on top of him I will try to finish him. But, I would prefer to keep it standing.