From the outside, it appears that Artem Lobov has had the most interesting year of his career. Not the best, not the worst, but interesting. It was a year in which he had his first UFC main event against Cub Swanson, went on a world media tour with his teammate Conor McGregor and then helped prepare the lightweight champion for his boxing match with Floyd Mayweather, and now, he’s in Poland, where he will fight Andre Fili this Saturday in Gdansk.
Lobov will agree, to a point. But deep down, he wanted to strap the gloves on a few more times.
“When I wasn’t in the UFC, I used to fight very often, sometimes seven times in a year,” he said. “Somebody did a calculation in the gym, just as a joke, and she said I fought on an average of every 40 days. And to be honest, I wanted even more fights. (Laughs) That was all I was able to get. So for somebody like me to only have had one fight the whole year up until this point is a little bit frustrating, but I understand that this is the way the business works. Obviously, I had a very big fight in Nashville, so I didn’t mind waiting. But having said that, I would have loved to compete a lot more.”
Those are the words of an athlete with fighting in his blood. Saying you want to fight anytime and anywhere is nice. But to sign on the dotted line when you get the call is another thing altogether. And the beauty of someone like Lobov is that he’s very matter-of-fact about the whole process. He doesn’t look at the Swanson bout – one in which he went five rounds with one of the featherweight elite and earned a Fight of the Night bonus – as a moral victory. It’s a loss. So as his coach John Kavanagh says, it’s win or learn, and Lobov went about the business of getting better as soon as he left Nashville in April.
“To be honest, to myself I felt that I was already past that level,” he said when asked if it was at least a positive step to know that he belonged on the same level with fighters like Swanson. “ I felt that it would be, not an easy win for me, but a sure win. And that was the reason why I was asking for the fight. But the fight exposed some of the holes in my game and has given me a lot more to work on, which I’m happy with, but I was not happy with the result. I’ve corrected the mistakes, I went back to the gym, and I look forward to the next challenge and implementing the new skills that I have acquired.”
The goal? Of course it’s a win on Saturday first. But more importantly, it’s to keep getting better until no one can stand a chance with him on fight night. Again, to some those are just words. In Lobov’s case, he has a method in place to help him reach the top, and if you say that he sounds like a perfectionist, he will agree.
“You have to be,” he said. “And I take a very evolutionary and scientific approach, and what I mean by that is that in order for evolution to happen, your existence needs to be threatened. You need to be under pressure. So in the fight game, that means you have to take hard fights, fights that will truly challenge you, that will expose your weaknesses.
“And scientifically, I do it exactly like the scientists do it,” Lobov continues. “When something doesn’t work out for them, they say, ‘Well, this is what doesn’t work.’ They don’t really see it as a failure. They know that this is a result that does not work, let’s move on to the next step. Let’s try a different approach, and that’s exactly what I do. I feel that if I stay in the game long enough with this approach, eventually I will fix all the mistakes and become the best.”
But what happens if he steps into Ergo Arena and fights the perfect fight against California’s Fili?
“In that case, everything is good and I keep everything the way it is and I take on a harder challenge,” he smiles. “And once I defeat everybody, well, perfect, then my goal has been achieved.”
This sounds like a never-ending process, but he doesn’t mind, because the 31-year-old makes it clear that he’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
“It almost never ends,” Lobov said. “But once I have that gold wrapped around my waist, I know I’ve done the right things and I have finally achieved something that I’ve always wanted. And I want that belt. I don’t know if I’ll get it or not, but I know for sure that while my body is still able, I’ll keep going. I will not stop. I’ve never given up, not in life, and certainly not in a fight. And I never plan on doing so, so I will just keep going and keep grinding. As long as my heart is beating, I ain’t quitting.”