Why do American MMA fans seem to like Albert Tumenov? Could it be because he is completely real, easy-going and he doesn't have a slightest hint of arrogance? Representing the small but ancient republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, which has been the part of a large and diverse Russia for a long time, Tumenov is a polite and soft-spoken young man who currently holds one of the most impressive winning streaks in the UFC welterweight division.
"I feel awesome and am ready to climb even higher in rankings," Albert told BloodyElbow. "I thought I would be more excited, but now I feel like Top 15 is just the beginning of my way upwards. Now I have to fight to become the champion. Being a Top 15 ranked fighter is way better, for sure, than not being ranked at all. When you aren't ranked many fighters don't want to accept fights with you. Now it's easier to find an opponent for me, and after all I become more popular among fans also."
Modern MMA fighters try to develop the full set of skills to become more well-rounded and diverse. Albert has his own view on this matter:
"As you know, I'm a basic striker," Albert continued. "Therefore I dedicate much of my trainings to making my striking even better. Sure, I work on the wrestling, grappling and on my defense from it. But my signature skill is striking and I want to be the best in this."
Interestingly enough, Albert doesn't spend much time in American camps. His regular appearances at the K-Dojo Warrior Tribe gym in New Jersey is the exception.
"I was training at K-Dojo, but most of the training time I spend at my homeland gym "Bastion," which is located in Kabardino-Balkaria, Russia. There're a lot of gifted guys to train with, so I have enough sparring partners. Soon many of them will be definitely heard of in the MMA world."
When asked about his financial status as a UFC fighter, Tumenov claimed that he earns enough by fighting in UFC. This is in contrast to other fighters from the region like Chechnya's Zubaira Tukhugov, who admitted earlier that he had never profited from UFC fight.
"Before I came to the UFC, I didn't earn anything by fighting. But since I'm here, I have no reason to complain. I'm satisfied by everything. At least I've never been in the negative after my fights."
When analyzing the skills of the best welterweights in the world, Tumenov remained calm and collected.
"I think Robbie Lawler is the most dangerous fighter in UFC welterweight division. There are a lot of great fighters at welterweight for sure, but I think Lawler is the most dangerous among them all. But the same time I think he would be a relatively easy opponent for me. If you look at Lawler's skills, you won't be able to say that he has some extraordinary techniques in any aspect of MMA. He is tough. He has a fighter's spirit and patience. But his fighting style is simply to move straight at you and attack. So you can definitely work with such an opponent. He can be defeated."
Grappling isn't Tumenov's favourite part of the game. He would rather knock his opponent out, than attempt a submission. However, at the same time, he isn't afraid to compete against grapplers in the division at all. Regarding Kelvin Gastelum, Tumenov came to a somewhat surprising conclusion.
"As for Gastelum, I can't say his grappling is of a top tier. Yes, he is a basic grappler, but he is an easy fight for me. Why? He has very short hands. So if our fight with Kelvin Gastelum happens I'll feel myself very comfortable. I would meet him without any problems."
Part 2 of BloodyElbow's sitdown with Albert Tumenov will feature a discussion about trash talking in Russia, Sage Northcutt, and Khabib Nurmagomedov.