In the eyes of Asian fight fans, Igor Svirid came from nowhere to stop Leandro Ataides and become the inaugural ONE FC 185-pound champion, courtesy of one of the most shocking knockouts of the year last month.
However, Svirid was far from an overnight sensation. He signed for Asia’s biggest MMA promotion on the back of a nine-fight winning streak and credits his trainers in Kazakhstan with laying the foundations for the win over Ataides.
“I represent Arnau-RS, which is a new gym and my fight gym that was only opened a couple of weeks before my fight. My trainer is Almas Boltanovych Rakhmanberdie and I think that my last fight showed that the trainers at this gym are not worse than those in other places like Europe, Japan, or America.”
Svirid says he could have joined the Alash Pride KZ gym, which is the best known in the country and frequently sends fighters to compete on a promotion of the same name but prefers to try and grow his own camp.
“They have invited me there, but I decided that it is not for me because we have our own gym that we have struggled to create, so why go to another one while I have guys in my gym? In the near future, I will show that we do have fighters who can fight at a high level on a major promotion.”
According to Svirid, a meticulous game plan was formulated at this camp in Kazakhstan ahead of the Ataides fight at ONE FC: Battle of Lions, but went out the window when he was able to take advantage of the Brazilian’s early aggression.
“The plan was to take this win in the third round and the plan was to stay away and avoid any risks and make my opponent chase me. During the fight, he made a mistake which I saw straightaway, he dropped his hands after he tried to punch me.”
However, while even Svirid’s most optimistic supporters would not have anticipated him dispatching Ataides in such abrupt fashion, the middleweight bristles at the suggestion that the jab that did the damage was somehow a “lucky punch.”
“It was not luck. I think he was hoping to use wrestling against me, but we prepared my striking skills properly, so that when he made that mistake I could use it to my advantage. It is what it is.”
Svirid’s record currently stands at 10-1 and since being beaten by a Korean middleweight on his professional debut, he has won every single fight. He says he trains full time and his entire life revolves around fighting.
“All I am doing outside of sport is visit my parents in their home, which is 250 kilometers outside of Almaty in a small village called Korday, close to the border with Kyrgyzstan. There are mountains there and I love to go running with my dog.”
Svirid says he has signed a six-fight deal with ONE FC and expects to defend his title for the first time in March. Even without a fight booked he still trains intensively, knowing that if the sports betting industry were to lay any odds on it, he’ll face even tougher opposition than Ataides in his next fight.
“I train two times a day. Training to me is like a plow for the horse. There is one thing I have to think now, that it is easy to conquer the belt, but much more difficult to keep it, and I expect they will put me in with an even stronger opponent in my next fight.”
Former Olympic gold medal winner and reigning “Fighter of the Year” Gennady Golovkin is without doubt Kazakhstan’s most famous sporting representative, but Svirid is hoping to have a similar impact through his MMA exploits and says he was particularly grateful for the support he received from his countryman in Singapore.
“During my stay in Singapore, some students from the Kazakhstan embassy met us and a group of them supported my fight that evening and also brought the Kazakhstan flag. I am very thankful for the support from them and from the whole country.”
So far, ONE FC fans have witnessed Svirid in action for a grand total of 17 seconds. That was how long it took him to dispatch the previously undefeated Ataides, but in 2015 he will be looking to prove that he has the prowess to remain a champion for many years to come.