Vladimir Matyushenko, who will take on Alexandre Ferreira on Saturday in an UFC 122 light heavyweight bout, answered questions from ESPNDallas.com about his career and upcoming fight.
What did you learn in your loss against phenom Jon Jones back in August?
Matyushenko: The one thing I learned is that you can’t stay in a certain position too long these days. They’ll take advantage very quick, especially Jon Jones. He’s a really good athlete and he doesn’t miss a chance. I was on my back. I should have just gotten out of there, by getting on my feet or taking his back. The game has become more dynamic than it used to be. It’s become so much faster.
You’ve faced some elite fighters like Tito Ortiz, Antonio Rogerio Noguiera and Andrei Arlovski. Compared to your experiences with those fighters, is Jon Jones among the elite in the light heavyweight division? Is he the real deal?
Matyushenko: He’s definitely a good athlete. He’s taking this game pretty seriously. I talked to him after the fight. Nice guy. He’s very professional. Some people are saying he’s not very experienced, but he learns very fast. He’s on top of his game.
What about your opponent for UFC 122? Is Alexandre Ferreira just a one-dimensional submission fighter? Or do you feel that there is more to his game than many suspect?
Matyushenko: I take every opponent seriously. He hasn’t fought in almost a year. You never know what is going to happen in that year. Maybe he’s been training with his striking or learning other things. But definitely he’s strongest at the submission game, although I’ve never been submitted before and I’ve fought against pretty good submission guys. I think striking is going to be key for me to win this fight.
What has training camp been like in preparation for Ferreira?
Matyushenko: It’s always business as usual in my camps, but there are little adjustments for the opponent I’m facing. But I usually train with a little bit of everything, because you never know who you might face. If your opponent gets injured you might ended up matching up against a fighter with an entirely different style.
Ferreira is really short for a light heavyweight, being 5-foot-7. What issues will he have to deal with against you being that you are 6-foot-1?
Matyushenko: He’s certainly under height. He’s stocky and short, but that is not necessarily a disadvantage in wrestling. There are a lot of good wrestlers that are short and stocky. I’ve wrestled before too; I know my defense for that. If I focus only on my striking, it may open gaps in my takedown defense. It’s going to be an interesting fight.
You’ve been fighting for 13 years. You have 29 fights to your name. What has motivated to stay involved in such a tough sport for so long?
Matyushenko: I’m pretty self driven. Not a lot of the members of my family are athletes. Most of them back in Russia are doing their own thing in Belarus. I always wanted to be somebody, and my dream has come true. I grew up in a little town in Russia. When I go back there, people are still doing the same things. It’s cool to be a fighter. That’s my motivation.
You earned a light heavyweight title shot against then-champion Tito Ortiz at UFC 33. Since that time, you’ve gone 14-3. Being that you are now 39 years old, do you have plans for a final run at the belt?
Matyushenko: Anything is possible. It’s a long ways away. I’m not self-delusional. The division has become so competitive. Step by step. I have to win this fight, and then we’ll see who is my next opponent. You never know in MMA. You always have to be in shape. Somebody gets hurt, you might get an opportunity to fight the best. Anything is possible.