Upon making his American debut last year as part of M-1 Global, highly regarded Russian lightweight Alexander “Tiger” Sarnavskiy did not fail to impress. Sarnavskiy submitted both of his opponents, helping add to five total wins in 2011, which in addition to two wins earlier this year have elevated his overall record to 20-0.
When speaking to MMAWeekly.com through interpreter Alexei Zhermakov, Sarnavskiy hopes to keep things going when he makes his promotional debut at Bellator 77 on Friday night in Redding, Penn.
“What surprised me here is that even the American fans were rooting for me to win the fight, even though I was fighting Americans,” said Sarnavskiy. “I am looking forward to continuing my career here in the U.S. fighting for Bellator. I hope not to disappoint the fans with this fight Friday night.”
As part of this season’s lightweight tournament, Sarnavskiy knows that he’ll have to be on top of his game against a talented pool of athletes.
“I think that fighting in Bellator’s tournament will be a very big test for me because all the fighters (involved) are very tough and strong opponents,” he said. “To pass all of them, to beat three of them in a row, will be a very serious task.
“It will help me find out where I am (in my career) and test my abilities as a professional fighter.”
Sarnavskiy’s first round opponent is possibly the biggest test he’s ever faced in UFC veteran Rich Clementi.
“First of all, I think it will be really hard to surprise my opponent,” said Sarnavskiy of Clementi. “He has almost 70 professional fights and has fought on the biggest stages in the world against top competition.
“I think he is more of a wrestler who tries to take his opponent down or lets himself be taken down and then is good on the ground with submissions from his back, on the top and is good at controlling his opponents on the ground. I think I am ready to fight him both standing up or on the ground, anywhere, but I must be prepared for anything.”
Sarnavskiy continued, “But because he prefers the ground game, I will try to fight him standing up. I think it will make the fight more exciting and I will have more chances to finish him standing up.”
When asked if he’s thought about the possibilities of who he could be facing later in the tournament, Sarnavskiy replied, “I have looked at all the fighters in the eight-man tournament, but I am focused on my first fight most of all.
“If I win this fight, then I will begin to focus on my next opponent, because obviously if I lose the first fight, there would be no sense in looking at anybody because you’re out. I study all the opponents, but I am concentrating on my first opponent and it is the most important thing I am working on right now.”
Regardless of outcome, Sarnavskiy promise fans a fight they won’t soon forget.
“I want to thank them for their support, and on my side, I will try everything to not disappoint them and show them an exciting fight that they will remember for a long time.”
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