It would be understandable if winning the Bellator heavyweight championship last November seemed commonplace for Vitaly Minakov. Already in his life he had achieved multiple gold medals in Sambo prior to joining MMA.
Yet when asked about his achievement, Minakov expressed elation, because even though he has been a dominant force since joining Bellator, he has continued to have the same strong work ethic he always has throughout his sports career, and that night in November it paid off.
“It was a feeling of deep satisfaction and a little bit of euphoria because the goal I had set up for myself many years ago, I finally achieved it,” Minakov told MMAWeekly.com through his translator. “So the words I would use to describe that moment would be: satisfaction and euphoria.”
Now that he is champion, no one would begrudge him maybe taking things a little lighter in enjoyment of his status, but that’s not how Minakov works. In fact, he feels he can do even better than before.
“My next goal is to make my fights more high quality,” he said. “I really want them to be as exciting as possible and action-packed as possible.
“I want myself to showcase all kind of skill and to do as few mistakes as possible. If I will be able to achieve that, I think that my future (fights) will have an advantage over the fights that I have had before.”
Minakov’s drive to continue to improve also helps keep away any pressures he might feel being the man whom everyone in the heavyweight division is gunning for, starting with his upcoming first title defense.
“I feel responsibility for my coaches, my whole team, my managers, but I cannot say I feel any pressure because I am ready for this fight,” he said. “I’m in very good shape and very good condition, so I cannot say that I have any mental pressure on me right now. I feel really good and confident.”
For his first title defense, Minakov (13-0) will face UFC veteran Cheick Kongo (20-8-2) in Reno, Nev., at Bellator 115 on Friday night.
“What I have to do is to fulfill the game plan that my team and my coach have,” said Minakov. “I don’t want to make mistakes. If I’m able to do so, I will be able to win and win convincingly.”
Having achieved so much in his career, when asked what he feels he can do to prove himself the best heavyweight fighter in the world regardless of promotion, Minakov responded, “I think the answer is rather simple: in order for me to establish myself as a dominant heavyweight, the most important thing is to keep winning.
“I don’t set up goals for myself to win in some sort of spectacular fashion doing some crazy stuff; the important thing is to win. If I keep winning I will establish myself as the top heavyweight in the world.”
(Photo courtesy of Bellator MMA)