Confident his UFC fate is sealed Lobov wants Diego Sanchez

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Unfortunately for Artem Lobov, his TUF Finale bout with Ryan Hall played out in a completely contrasting light to the performances that got him to the all-important bout.

‘The Russian Hammer’ crushed three opponents by KO when given a second chance to impress for Team Europe on the latest season of TUF. James Jenkins, Chris Gruetzemacher and Julian Erosa all fell to the SBG fighter on route to the final of the tournament, but a last ditch switch of opponent from Saul Rogers to jiu-jitsu wizard Ryan Hall certainly shifted the goal posts for Lobov.

For 15 gruelling minutes, the European KO artist evaded the submission attempts of Hall who constantly looked to force his strengths on his counterpart. Nobody batted an eyelid when the decision was read out in Hall’s favour, but for Lobov, the fact that he lost didn’t really bother him. It was the way that he was defeated that made the night hard to swallow for him.

“When you’re in the UFC it doesn’t really matter about wins, losses or your record,” said Lobov, back at home in Dublin. “Now you’re in the UFC, it’s time to perform. It’s very simple really–if you’re exciting and you’re winning, you stay. If you’re boring and you’re losing, you go. That’s what it’s about right now and not only did I lose, I lost the most boring fight ever.

“I went into that fight hoping for this great finale. I was hoping for my Forrest Griffin/Stephan Bonnar moment, but then I didn’t even get to fight. I woke up the next day and there wasn’t a scratch on me, but I had a loss. It’s just so disappointing.”

Hall seemed to be a particularly bad matchup for Lobov. Although he had put a lot of work into his takedown defence in the lead up to the UFC’s reality platform, he believes there was nothing that he could have done to prepare for the unorthodox approach of ‘The Wizard.’

“He fought a completely different fight against me,” he explained. “When you look at the fight he had with Saul Rogers he spent a lot of his time striking. He threw hands and he welcomed the exchanges, but with me, he did not throw a single jab. He didn’t do anything. Any time I took a step forward he just fell to his back.

“Fair enough, it paid off I guess because he got the win, but I always say that if you’re going to step up to the UFC, this is the Ultimate Fighting Championships, you have to fight. You shouldn’t just be falling onto your back every time.

“I’m not too sure what I could’ve done differently. My takedown defence is pretty good, I’ve worked on it a lot because it’s been a problem for me in the past. The way he went for takedowns, you can’t even call them takedowns because he was constantly just tying me up and dropping to his back. It was very hard to prepare for because how many guys do you see that actually do that? He’s the only one who does that.”

Lobov is finding it hard to pull any positives out of the fight. Although he did fantastically well to avoid a multitude of submission attempts from one of the most distinguished grapplers on the UFC roster, ‘The Russian Hammer’ maintained that he “would’ve preferred to get killed in there than have taken such a boring loss.”

“I guess it was good that I was able to survive the submissions, but most of the time I’m able to do that. Whenever I’m in a submission, I don’t event think about tapping. Tapping is not an option. To me it’s always get out of there, get choked out or get your arm or leg broken. I just keep fighting until I’m out.

“Luckily, I didn’t have any injuries after this fight. Potentially I could’ve had my knee torn and that would’ve been even worse because not only would I have lost I would have lost and I wouldn’t be able to walk. In that sense, I can take some positives from it, but I would’ve preferred to get killed in there than have taken such a boring loss.”

But it hasn’t been all bad news for him. According to Lobov, some VIPs from UFC’s backroom have informed him that he will get another chance to showcase his ability in the Octagon.

It makes sense, really. Considering that the SBG man was such a big factor on the television series having made it to final on the back of a spectacular run of finishes, it wouldn’t make sense for UFC to hand him off to be another promotion’s poster boy.

As far as fights he would like are concerned, Lobov did not hesitate to mention the name of a UFC veteran and a man who has never shied away from a firefight, Diego Sanchez.

“The people who I spoke to, who are very important people in the UFC, they’ve all said to me that I’m getting a second shot. In that sense it’s good, I’ve gotten what I’ve wanted. I can say now that I am in the UFC and I’m just waiting for the next fight.

“I hope it’s a good matchup. Obviously, I’m not in the position to turn down any fights at the moment so I’m just going to take whoever they give me, but I really hope it’s someone that will exchange, even a little bit. I want to get a chance to show what I can do.

“They’ve left what weight division I will compete in up to me, it’s whichever one I want between lightweight and featherweight. I feel like it doesn’t really matter as long as it’s a good matchup.

“Someone like Diego Sanchez, you could fight him at any weight class because he always comes to fight. He’s always going to stand and bang with you. Even though he has great wrestling and great jiu-jitsu, he just loves a good scrap. You know that it’s going to be an exciting fight no matter what happens.

“If you take someone like Ryan Hall, he’s probably a 135er really. Still, he managed to make our fight a boring contest, so I guess the weight category is not an issue for me anymore. It’s more about the style of opponent that I get. And again, I wouldn’t mind getting a wrestler either, because I feel like I can deal with them at the moment,” said Lobov.

The Dubliner also revealed that Sanchez has shown some interest in meeting him while the TUF series was being broadcast:

“The reason why I mentioned Diego is because he has expressed a bit of interest in fighting me. He tweeted me saying that I would be one of the few guys that would actually stand and trade with him and he is right when he says that. I think he’s at that point in his career where he probably just wants to have a few more fights, make a bit of money and put on a good show.

“That works for me. We would make for an unbelievable matchup for the fans. I think it has the potential to be a fight that people talk about for a long, long time.”

The durability of Sanchez is a legend in itself. The only time the Jackson-Winkeljohn fighter has ever been stopped was when doctors stepped in and deemed the cut he suffered in his lightweight title bout against BJ Penn too much of a danger to continue with. That being said, Lobov is confident that he could put ‘The Dream’ to sleep should they ever face off.

“I definitely think I have the power and the accuracy to land that finishing shot on him. He is really tough to finish, Lamas couldn’t finish him and many others have tried and found it very difficult to get that finish. I do think I would be able to get that finish against him if we ever meet in the Octagon.”

@PetesyCarroll

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.