We spoke to Sasha a day after the 'M-1 Challenge' event in St. Petersburg. Teams from Japan, Korea, Finland and Russia took part in the event. There were also three main bouts. All three with Russian participants. And all three ended up with Russian wins. In one of the fights Aleksander Emelianenko knocked out his opponent in the first round.
- 'I'm very tired. After the fight I didn't get a chance to rest. First there was an after party, then I sent my friends off to Moscow, and just now came back from the city with my family' - said the champion as soon as we sat down behind the table in a comfortable bar. We did not order any alcohol to relax. It's not fitting for a journalist, and Sasha doesn't drink at all.
What are your impressions from the event in Petersburg?
- I did not see all the fights, because when I fight, I try not to get distracted. I try to get focused and do some prelim exercises. I liked my fight. I came out and did what I had to do, and won. We will rewatch the fight with my coach, go through mistakes.
Is it plausible to compare the show on Sunday with the likes of shows in Europe and America?
- Mixed martial arts is a young sport in Russia. Not one sport has gained such a popularity in such a short time. We already are filling the stadiums. On the other hand, we cannot organize everything as good yet. But we're trying. I think it will start working soon.
Your opponent was lower in class, it was noticeable. When will we be able to see you in a fight with someone who's considered to be one of the best in the world?
- I only found out who will be my opponent a week before the fight. Everyone refused to fight with me, and only he agreed. He is not weak, he's a good fighter, he had alot of fights. It's just that I'm strong and train alot. Today I am ready to fight with any top fighter, to prove that I'm the best!
Is it hard to recover after a loss?
- No. You just need to understand why you lost. And draw conclusions. It's not scary to come out for the next fight. I know that I'm the best. Let my opponents fear me. That's what they do anyway.
What are you upcoming plans?
- Today I will talk with a promoter, to try to negotiate a fight in Canada on May 10. I don't know an opponent yet. To win and to become the best in the world - those are my upcoming plans.
Where do you live and train now?
- In Petersburg. I don't know why they are announcing that I'm from Stary Oskol, for my second fight already. I left that place a long time ago. Maybe because I don't have a permanent registration here. But I do have a temporary one. I rent an appartment in the center of the city. Valentina Matvienko promised me to help with a place to live.
How did you come to the fighting sport?
- I started with Judo. At 16 years old I got a Master of Sports in Judo title. In 99 I won the Europian championship in sports sambo. Three times, in 2003, 2005 and 2006 I won the world championship in combat sambo. But I don't participate in those every year. It's more of a hobby for me. I fought so that I could get the titles of Master Sports. Sometimes I come to world championships to fight and my opponents quit. One of the championships I won without ever fighting. Didn't come out on the mat even once.
Klichko brothers will never come out to the ring against each other, because their mother won't be able to handle this fight. What about you?
- Me and my brother will never fight each other - that's just not right. There are plenty of good fighters in the world, with whom we have not fought yet.
But can you imagine what ratings such a fight can bring?
- So what?! For money? Two brothers will beat each other senseless? It will never happen. Nobody even pitches this fight to us. They know that we will not even consider it.
Do your parents worry about you?
- Very much so. My mother wouldn't even let me do boxing in the beginning. But I liked this sport very very much. So I tried to trick her: I would hide my things in the post box in the lobby and would tell her "Mom, I'm going out". And would then go to the gym. At the same time when my friends would sit around on the street, drank beer and smoked.
How do you spend your free time?
- With my family. I have two daughters. Ksyusha - 8 years and Polina - just 7 months old. My spouse Olga helps me very much.
But they say that marriage is detrimental to a professional athlete. Because he starts to perform worse.
- It's the other way around for me. Whoever knows me will say that as soon as I got married, everything started going up. For all I have, I am thankful to my wife.
Do you train alot?
- At 8 in the morning I take my daughter to school. Then I start the training. My first session is at 11. Then I rest, and take a nap right there. And then another session at night. And it's been like this for many years now. I don't really get stressed like this. I will be performing for the next ten years.
Will your younger brother follow your footsteps?
- Vanya is in Lesgafta studying and majoring in wrestling. Although he broke his hand right now, unlucky punch. So this haluted his training regimen. But he is ready to fight and will follow our footsteps.
Did you have to protect yourself on the street at times?
- No. I'm either at the gym or at home most of the time. Don't go anywhere else for the most part. If someone wants something from em, I just stand there and listen; try to understand why he needs this. And then come to conclusion that it's not worth it to get myself involved. I turn around and walk away. And actually I like to go to a theater, and you really can't fight the kind of people that go to a theater (laughs).
You're a fan of 'Zenit'?
- Yes. I'm not a bad player myself. I love team sports. I even went to commentate one Zenit game on TV. I'm also being treated by the doctors of Zenit. Before my last fight, I had a temperature of 37.2 degrees for two weeks. At first I treated myself. Then I went to them. There was a suspicion that I had a pneumonia. They quickly brought me to my feet again, gave me IVs, vitamin shots.
Do you know any players?
- Whenever I come to their center, we always talk to Riksen. He also has many tattoos. I also know Radimov and Krizhanats.
It's been a while since strongest fighters face each other. Maybe, it's time to organize some unified tournament, where all the fighters in the world would compete, no matter which organization they're from?
- I would gladly participate in such a tournament. UFC (american mixed martial arts), for example, does not want to take me, because if they let me in there, I would beat everybody and take the belt to Russia. They don't want that. They want their own American champions. We alreayd beat everyone in Japan, even though noone bet on us.
What makes Russian fighters be the best in the world?
- Our will! And the huge amount of work we perform in training.
Who do you think is the best fighter in the world?
- I'm prepared to fight with the best, to prove that I am the best.
Do we have upcoming fighters, who will replace those who currently glorify Russia?
- Yes, but we have a difficult situation with sports today. Dmitriy Medvedev said that only 20% of young people participate in some sports. My coaches tell me that it's more like 2%. This will not lead to anything good. Before, everything was free, and now all they gyms are becoming paid. And now all the of them are getting empty.
And it's easier to just drink with your friends than to work hard during training?
- But I like to work hard. What am I going to prove to anybody, if I can drink more vodka?
So what to do?
- In our country sport athletes are not rewarded at all. I have a friend who's a Combat Sambo world champion. But he has to survive and feed his family, so he works as a bouncer at a bar. Another friend who's an olympic champion. He tells me: "I'm about to go to the new Olympic games, but they still did not give me the 50,000 for the old one." And he's an olympic champion - this is the highest status you can achieve in any sport.