“People are terrified of losing” – Lobov before Zielinski cancelled title bout

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Today, via Twitter, John Kavanagh revealed a private message sent to him claiming that Adrian Zielinski, who had been scheduled to defend his lightweight title against Artem Lobov next Saturday in Poland for the lightweight title at X Cage 7, refused to face the SBG man for fear a potential loss would ruin his UFC trajectory.

“Adrian is one win from UFC,” read the message which was rumoured to be sent by the event’s matchmaker, “and they (Zielinski’s camp) don’t want to risk it.”

Interestingly, speaking to Lobov in the lead up to next weekend’s bout, ‘The Russian Hammer’ spoke quite a bit about the fact that nobody wants to face him, which means stepping in as a late replacement has become commonplace for the explosive striker.

Zielinski would have been Lobov’s eighth fight inside 12 months, and because of his activity and lack of notice on his opponents, the Dublin based fighter explained why he never really gets too in depth with his analysis of his counterparts before they meet.

“Nobody will agree to fight me so I don’t really get to watch tape,” claimed Lobov. “It’s always last minute, but even if I had time to look at my opponents I wouldn’t. The last opponent I had in Poland, Peter Queally kept telling me to have a look at some tape. I did in the end, but really I couldn’t be bothered.

“For me there are only so many ways you can throw a jab so it doesn’t matter who the other guy is, he’s going to do it the same way. There are ways to defend a takedown, there are ways to get back to your feet. They are the basics, the fundamentals and that’s what we always drill.

“Fighting is all about doing the fundamentals right so that’s really all that I work on. It doesn’t matter who I face I just do the same thing every time I fight.”

Lobov has picked up some losses on the way and currently his record stands at 11-10, which is representative of the tough opponents he has faced. Since his shock upset win over Dave Hill in his second pro-outing, Hill was 9-1 and Lobov 0-1, he has been known as ‘The Prospect Killer’, which seems more apt than ever after Zielinski’s refusal.

When highlighting the advantages of having quick turnarounds between fights, he also spoke about how taking difficult opponents has taught him a lot lessons that he otherwise would not have learned.

He said: “That’s the advantage of having a quick turnaround between fights. You get to go in there and sort out anything you had trouble with in the last one straightaway. If you only fight twice a year, you nearly forget what went wrong in your last fight.

“When you fight every few weeks you have it fresh in your memory so you know not to do it again in your next fight. I actually feel like it’s helped me a lot. It’s hard to improve too when you completely smash a guy. It’s hard when a guy is not giving you the pressure that an elite fighter would give to you.

“So it was important for me to take in hard fights. I was 24 when I started fighting. I did a crash course in MMA, I needed those hard fights that would teach me lessons, and they did. I think showed that in my last fight.”

Speaking two days ago, Lobov made no bones about how little he cared about Zielinski’s title, something that the Pole’s camp felt was imperative to the fighter getting on to the UFC’s books according to Kavanagh’s Twitter post.

“Title, shmitle. I don’t care about the title. Let’s be honest, the UFC title is the only one that matters. These titles basically mean you are the champion of all the guys that are left over outside UFC, One FC, Bellator, WSOF – do you really want that? A lot of the champions are very selective with who they fight anyway so it means nothing.

“Even the Cage Warriors titles or BAMMA titles, honestly, they mean nothing to me. I understand that they have great fighters over there, but the title itself, it doesn’t really mean that much to me to be honest,” he said.

Ironically, Lobov cited the gameness of Zielinski as a reason to why he was looking forward to their meeting on March 14.

“He’s beaten some really good guys. He’s beaten a very good Finnish fighter called Niko Puhakka. That guy’s a big lightweight and that fact that Adrian has beaten him says a lot about him. Even his fight with Brian (Moore) was very good, he didn’t give up and he was always going for it. It should be a good fight I think.”

Talking about the style matchup between him and the Polish champion, Lobov maintained it made no difference what background his opponents came from.

“Whether I fight a standup guy or a wrestler, they will all do the same thing, as soon as I punch them in the face they will start grappling,” said Lobov. “The only guy that didn’t do that was the other Polish guy I fought just before Christmas.

“He didn’t try to take me down and I was surprised. I was waiting for him to try it throughout the whole fight. He said exactly the same thing about me after the fight. He thought that I was going to be shooting in on him.

“We clinched at one point and I can remember that we both just waiting for the referee to separate us so we could start throwing punches again. The referee was shouting ‘I nee some action or I’ll separate you’. We both kind of just stood still until he did!”

With the latest of series of TUF tryouts set for this month, Lobov discussed how his personality and readiness to fight would suit the platform.

“I would love to do that actually, but first I have to win this fight next week and then I’ll see what the story is,” outlined Lobov on Thursday. “If another fight came up before it maybe I would take that too, but I would probably fight a guy on the plane on the way over to the tryouts if they wanted me to.

“It’s not a cheap trip though, I’ve just left my job to focus fully on fighting now, so it would be expensive to put it together. I don’t think they would be putting me up in the presidential suite this time.

“I think it would suit me as a fighter and I could probably bring some entertainment value to the house too. Really when you’re going in to these tryouts it’s the production guys that are picking the cast so it’s hard to know if they would think I’d be a good fit for the show.”

Again, when forecasting the future of Irish MMA with a lot of amateurs turning pro this year Lobov spoke about his frustrating dealings to get opponents. Due to people looking to keep decent records Lobov insisted that some were ‘terrified’ of putting a blemish on their record and that four opponents turned down fights with him under the BAMMA banner.

“I hope for all of the young guys going pro now that they can get something similar going,” Lobov said when referring to the old Cage Contender and Cage Warriors shows. “For that to happen, you need guys like me who will fight anyone. There are only so many schmucks that will come in and take a beating off the young, promising guys on the way up.

“You need two guys who are going to really compete with each other and put on a great fight. People will go to the shows and want to see the same kind of standard again. If someone like me did do that and got a chance in UFC, other fighters would know that they could take hard fights, take a few losses and they wouldn’t be ruining their chances.

“People are terrified of losing. If a fight looks in anyway dangerous, they won’t do it. Four guys turned down fights with me on BAMMA, that’s ridiculous. I want to fight top guys and the only way I seem to be able to is by taking these last minute fights.”

Based on his willingness to fight and his reputation for stepping in on any show across Europe, Lobov is going to keeping an eye on UFC Poland too.

Claiming that nobody else steps in to face top prospects in smaller shows, he believes he should get preference over people who only look for the late slots when UFC rolls into town:

“I’m the topped ranked featherweight and lightweight in Poland. There are a few fights on that UFC card that I will be ready for if someone has to pull out. What’s annoying is when people need a late replacement outside of the UFC there is no queue of people looking to take the fight.

“Win or lose, I’m the one that goes out there and fights these people. They’re usually top prospects in Europe too. If someone drops out of a fight on that UFC card everyone will be trying to get in and I should be the first person who gets a call.”

@PetesyCarroll

Photo: CageWarriors

Peter Carroll is Severe MMA's lead feature writer. He has been featured in many top publications and some rubbish ones too. He also writes for the Irish Daily Mirror and Vice's Fightland.