by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
(Photos courtesy www.lasubx.com)
With the second set of the IFL’s round-robin competition ready to kick off this coming weekend in Los Angeles, things have begun to tighten up with the teams, particularly the Tokyo Sabres, coached by Ken Yasuda.
Currently experiencing redemption by winning their first team battle earlier this year over the Don Fry-lead Arizona Scorpions, after having a dismal performance last season, the Sabres are quickly becoming something of a dark horse favorite to make it to the 2007 World Team Tournament later this year.
Among the reasons for this rebirth and the continued maturation and development of the team is their light-heavyweight, MMA veteran Vladimir Matyushenko.
Coming into the IFL, Matyushenko had competed in promotions such as the UFC and had faced the some of the best fighters they had to offer at the time, including Tito Ortiz. Along with his long fighting pedigree, Vladimir had also extensively trained at the R1 gym with famed instructor Rico Chiapparelli and currently #7 MMAWeekly Ranked Middleweight, Frank Trigg.
In his IFL debut this past February, Matyushenko quickly dispatched of the Scorpions’ Dwayne Compton in just under two minutes with an arm bar, and now he’s expected to keep his winning streak going against SoCal Condors 205lb fighter Justin Levens.
“I’m feeling good,” stated Vladimir of his condition heading into the 17th. “We’re still about a week out, but I’m feeling healthy, and good.”
As for how Matyushenko’s team is gelling and becoming more complete heading into their second team battle of the 2007 IFL season, “We’re doing great. We’re all pushing each other in the training sessions, supporting each other. We can work harder because everybody’s been trying to help out, so it’s great so far.”
Vladimir added, “I think we’re going to win. They [the Condors] might have chances, with [our] little injuries here or there, but I don’t want to tell you all the truth; I don’t want to give up all our secrets. [Laughs] It should be good though.”
Individually Matyushenko faces a much tougher challenge than he had in his first IFL fight, in the guise of Justin Levens.
Justin, a former WEC and UFC veteran, is looking to rebound off a disappointing loss in his IFL debut to Reese Andy of the Seattle Tiger Sharks in January.
So with Levens hungry to get some redemption of his own, Vladimir knows he’s going to be in for a tough fight, even if he doesn’t necessarily know a lot about his opponent.
“Well, basically I know what I’ve found on the internet,” said Matyushenko of his opponent. “That’s all I know about him, he can be good and can be not [good]. He’s still young, hasn’t had as many fights, but is just as dangerous as anybody out there. He can throw some bombs and I have to be aware of it.”
Recently, when MMAWeekly spoke to Justin last week, he had said he heard rumors that Vladimir might stand and trade with him.
To this Matyushenko replied with a chuckle, “Why not?”
“I’m looking forward to anything. I don’t want to just win the fight. Early in my career that’s what I wanted to do, but now that I’m further [into my career] I want to try everything,” continued Vladimir.
The winner of the clash between the Sabres and Condors would go to 2-0 and have a big advantage on other teams hoping to make the WTT Finals later this year. But as Matyushenko knows, we’re still early in the season and there’s a long way to go.
“Yes, definitely, that’s our plan [to make it to the finals] and I feel good about it,” exclaimed Vladimir. “That’s why I joined the IFL for, so I can be busy all the way year-round.”
So just days away from the IFL’s Los Angeles debut, Matyushenko and the Sabres are read to put on a show for the fans against the Condors, and maybe take that next step towards the 2007 IFL World Team Tournament Championship.
“I’ve been walking around and all my friends know about it, so I think it’s going to be a great show,” concluded Vladimir. “There’s three teams basically from the L.A. area, so hopefully there will be a lot of fans [at the show]. I just want to thank everybody, my training partners, the fans, my team and the IFL, everyone that’s been supporting me.”