Fight a guy with a 13-13 record and some would say you’re on to something of a hiding to nothing. Beat the opponent and you only did what was expected of you. Lose, however, and it looks bad – really bad.
This is the conundrum facing Andre Fili this Saturday (October 21) when he squares off against the 13 and 13 (with a draw and a no contest for good measure) Artem Lobov in Gdansk, Poland. He knows Lobov is far better than his 50:50 record suggests and knows that if he’s not on his game, there’s every chance he will be hustled out of it and beaten.
Indeed, Lobov, despite the 13 defeats on his record, has been stopped only once, by Mike Wilkinson back in 2011, and is yet to be finished inside a UFC’s Octagon. Last time out he went the full five rounds with Cub Swanson, a man on the cusp of a UFC featherweight title shot. He’s one of Conor McGregor’s main sparring partners. He is durable. He can fight.
“He’s a tough fighter, he’s in the UFC,” Fili, 16-5, told Fighters Only editor Michael Owens. “You can’t take anything away from someone who is a professional fighter and competes at the highest level. A lot of people write him off, or give him some s**t, but he’s fought Cub, he’s fought Teruto (Ishihara), he’s fought some really good guys in the UFC.
“A lot of the people who talk s**t about him have also never been in a fight, let alone been locked in a cage in front of thousands of people. It’s hard for me to take anyone’s opinion seriously if they’ve never done the thing they are criticising. I don’t really listen to the people on the internet. There are some funny people, some really funny trolls, and I get a good laugh out of a lot of stuff, but I don’t put too much stock in what other people say.
“I’m just completely focused on myself and having the greatest performance of my career. That’s the only thing I care about. I don’t care about his record, or what people think about him. I don’t give a s**t what people think about me, either. I’ve got a lot of flak, too, because I was 13-1 after my first UFC win and in this sport after you lose a fight it’s the end of the world and after you win a fight you’re king for a day. You can’t celebrate your wins too much, and you can’t have too much sorrow about your losses. You’ve just got to roll with the punches. I don’t care about anything except myself and performing to the best of my ability. I feel like that’s something I’ve got better at – focusing on what really matters.”
Many expected Swanson to become the first man to stop Lobov when the pair went to war in April. But it never happened. He hit Lobov with everything, for a total of 25 minutes, and Lobov remained standing at the end, a moral victory of sorts. The decision was unanimous (in Swanson’s favour). The praise for Lobov was similar unanimous.
Stock on the rise, Lobov now faces a man in Fili who is keen to achieve what Swanson wasn’t able to achieve. Fili, with eight knockouts from 16 fights, is looking to avoid going to the cards on Saturday night.
“I just see it finishing,” says the 27-year-old. “He’s never been finished before (in the UFC) and I think I’m going to be the first person to do it. I am going to be the first person to finish him.
“I don’t know if it’s going to be on the ground or standing up, but wherever it comes, I’m going to take it. I’m going to push the pace and I’m going to make it exciting.”
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