'The Russian Hammer' headlines his first UFC card on Saturday night
On Saturday night in Nashville, Artem ‘The Russian Hammer’ Lobov will contest his first main event under the UFC banner.
The SBG Ireland featherweight’s call-up to a headline showdown against Cub Swanson was met with some criticism when it was first announced.
Although the disparity in ranking between top-ranked Swanson and the Russian has garnered most of the attention, the fact that Lobov thought his UFC career may have been over after his two initial losses under the banner makes his ascent to top billing even more impressive.
Speaking ahead of the high-stakes bout, Lobov claimed that he prompted the promotion’s top brass to cut him after his loss to Alex White in February 2016, but was grateful when UFC matchmaker Sean Shelby came back to him with an offer to fight Nate Diaz’s teammate Chris Avila on the undercard of UFC 202.
“I messaged the UFC and told them to release me,” Lobov recalled his mindset after two consecutive UFC defeats.
“I explained that I understood that I had two losses and if they were going to cut me it would be fair. I told them I had found a champion outside of the UFC to fight, who I felt was the best unsigned talent outside of the promotion.
“I was confident that the other promotion wanted to put the fight on, but then the UFC came back to me with another matchup. I took it because UFC is where I want to be.”
The Dublin-based knockout artist admitted that he went through some hard times after his first two unsuccessful outings against White and Ryan Hall, but he never gave up on himself and refused to complain about the situation that he was in.
“Having those losses was not easy, but I’m not a moaner and I’m not a complainer. I’m a go-getter and an earner,” he said.
“I was never going to stay down, crying. I dusted myself off and I was ready to either leave the UFC or get another matchup. I wasn’t begging anyone for another fight, I wasn’t crying about the bad situation.
“Instead of that, I just thought about what I needed to do to fix the situation and get me to where I needed to be. I did just that and now I am where I want to be.”
Recently dethroned Cage Warriors featherweight champion Paddy Pimblett has looked to align himself with Lobov for a number of years, but ‘The Russian Hammer’ maintained that the Liverpudlian was never on his radar during that time.
“Hell no!” Lobov responded when asked about Pimblett.
“Make no mistake about it, if I had been cut by the UFC I would’ve tried to fight him as well, but this was a different matchup. The guy I was looking at was the champion in Fight Nights Global at the time, Rasul Mirzaev. He was 16-0.”
Lobov prompting the UFC to cut him could have gone one of two ways, and luckily for the Saggart native, everything has worked out in his favour as he approaches the most important fight of his life.
The division could completely open up for Lobov should he claim victory, which will allow him to leapfrog other contenders in the rankings due to Swanson’s standing.
“I’m so happy the way everything turned out. The only reason why I wanted to fight that other guy was because I thought it would be the best way to get me back to the UFC.
“In the end, I got to stay with the best promotion in the world so how can you not be happy with that?”
As always, the first battle Lobov will encounter this weekend will be with the scales, which he hopes to hit at no more than 146 lbs. Although Lobov never usually he has trouble making the weight, the food that is readily available in Nashville has not aided his cause.
“It’s not too bad, but it’s hard to find good food here, to be honest,” he said, days out from his weigh-in.
“There’s nothing here for a fighter’s diet. It’s all fried chicken and burgers. I’m after the good stuff. We’ve managed to find a few places, so I’m happy I got out here a little bit earlier. I was able to find a few spots after a few days, so I know where to go now.”
Lobov went out of his way to get over to Nashville in plenty of time to acclimatise to the location ahead of the fight. Swanson holds the home turf advantage on Saturday night, but Lobov that he has taken away any advantage his foe could have by arriving at the fight location two weeks ago.
“The one advantage I thought Cub could’ve had over me is the home advantage. I figured I would take that away from him. Why not get over to Tennessee early and make it my home?
“I’m comfortable now. I’ve gotten to know the place. I’ve seen what it’s like to train over here.
“It feels fine now. I know where to get food. I’ve had a few hard sessions so I know exactly what the air feels like. It was a good decision, I think.”