Original Bellator Middleweight Tournament Winner, Alexander "Storm" Shlemenko, is man on a mission.
Russian KO artist was on a six-fight winning streak prior to facing Hector Lombard for the Bellator Middleweight title almost a year ago, only to find himself losing via Unanimous Decision after five rounds of tough battle. Now, with vengeance on his mind, Shlemenko looks to pave the way to a second shot at the Bellator Middleweight title and a rematch with Hector Lombard.
In the second round, Shlemenko faces "The Predator" Brian Rogers, who's currently on an impressive 7-fight all 1st Round KO streak, including the one against Victor O'Donnell in the opening round of the tournament. Alexander Shlemenko will look to secure his place in the final, where will face the winner of Vitor Vianna vs. Brian Baker bout.
The fight will take place this Saturday at Bellator 54, held at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The event will be aired LIVE on MTV 2 starting 9pm PST / 8PM CST.
Here' what "The Storm" had to say about the fight with Brian Rogers, training in South California and the unlikely move down to Welterweight. Feel free to follow Shlemenko on Twitter at @StormShlemenko.
You’ve been training a lot in US for this edition of Bellator Middleweight Tournament. What’s the biggest difference between training in USA and your previous camps in Russia?
I think the biggest difference is the fact that here we can train in the cage and use all types of other necessary MMA equipment. It’s also important to note that in United States you have many high quality sparring partners.
Brian Rogers is currently on a 7-fight All KO win streak. Would you look to use your improved grappling skills like you did with Zelg Galesic, or the fight will go in stand-up?
Brian Rogers has a good takedown defense, so I don’t think about wasting energy on trying to take him down. Of course, if I get the right opportunity, I will try to submit or choke him out. Still, he’s a tough guy, so I’ll have to “soften him up” before going for submission. That’s why my plan is to start this fight in stand-up and then to adjust throughout the fight.
What will it mean for you to win the Bellator Middleweight Tournament for second consecutive time?
The most important thing is to take another step towards fighting for Hector Lombard’s title.
The fight with Brian Rogers will be your second bout in last 30 days. Did you miss the tight Bellator schedule?
I like to fight as much as possible. I think it’s “healthy” from both psychological and financial aspects. There were times when I had three fights in one night, so there’s nothing surprising or pressuring in this “tight” Bellator schedule.
How important for you is the potential rematch with Hector Lombard? Do you consider it as your main priority?
Yes, definitely. I’m absolutely sure that when we meet again, the fight will play by a totally different scenario. I’m working very hard on my takedown defense and overall physical condition. Hector Lombard will not be able to take me down and play the clock on the ground. I could beat him up and then win via KO standing.
Some fans think that you are not big enough for a Middleweight, and should try competing at Welterweight. Is this even an option for you?
I’m not really considering moving down in weight classes. I feel pretty comfortable and confident during fights, as well as during sparring sessions with fighters much bigger than myself. More than that, I’m walking around at 198lbs, so it’s a pretty normal frame for a Middleweight.