SAINT PETERSBURG, Russia — M-1 Challenge featherweight challenger Andrey “Iron” Lezhnev has fully prepared to take defending champion Nate “The Train” Landwehr’s belt, who will be making his first title defense December 15, headlining M-1 Global’s final event of the year – M-1 Challenge Battlein Atyrau- in M-1 Global’s first show in Kazakhstan in three years.
M-1 Challenge Battle in Atyrau will be live-streamed from Kazakhstan in high definition on www.M1Global.TV. Viewers will be able to watch the preliminary fights and main card by logging on to register at www.M1Global.TV. Fans may watch all the action on their computers, as well as on Android and Apple smart phones and tablets. M-1 Challenge Battle in Atyreau will also be is available onwww.FITE.TV(preliminary card is free, $7.99 for the main card).
The 30-year-old Landwehr is a popular, entertaining fighter from America who captured his crown this past June at M-1 Challenge 95, when knocked out the then-defending champion Khamzat Dalgiev on punches in round two.
Ukrainian MMA veteran Lezhnev (18-7-0, M-1; 6-3-0) became top contender by winning nine of his last 10 fights, including the last three, and nobody has stopped him.
Lezhnev recently entered The Rage for a one-on-one interview about this Saturday’s title fight:
Andrey, tell us how you got your nickname.
AL: “I got my nickname. “Iron,” back in the days when I started my career. I took park in a free fight competition with many other strong athletes with different martial arts background like boxing, wrestling, judo or Muay Thai. I had a lot of difficult fights and after the fights many of my opponents called me, “Iron”. My friends and teammates started calling me that and later my coach put this nickname into a form before a fight and it became official.”
You absolutely justify your nickname. You are really Iron, nobody ever made you tap and you have only been knocked out once. It is almost impossible to finish you. Is it because of your fighting skills or because of your character?
AL: “It is undoubtedly a combination of skills and character. Your skills help you not to get into a situation, where your character won’t help you, because if you are caught in a position in which you cannot escape, and your opponent makes a submission, you either tap or get injured. In such case your character can only make it worse. On the other hand, there are many situations when athletes tap out way too early, when they still had a chance to escape, but got scared, and character would help them in this case”
You are a well-rounded fighter with almost equal number of submissions and knockouts in your record. What part of the fight do you like the most?
AL: “I love fighting in a dominant style. It doesn’t matter if it’s a stand-up game or grappling, because when your opponent is stronger than you somewhere, it’s getting difficult to enjoy fighting him the way he wants. In general, I enjoy striking more, because fans love seeing brawls and I do my best to make my fans happy.”
We’ve seen Mikhail Korobkov taking Nate Landwehr down, Viktor Kolesnik knocked him down, Khamzat Dalgiev controlled him on the ground, but none of them could defeat him. What is so special about ‘The Train” that keeps him winning and what is the difference between you and his previous opponents?
AL: “Landwehr is a mentally strong fighter. If he is being taken down, he stands up, and even if he gets knocked down, he gets back onto his feet anyway and keeps going forward. This is the way he fights, but one day it will play a cruel joke on him. If you keep missing so many punches, one day you’ll eat a punch which will knock you out.
“All his previous opponents were talented, young prospects, but I’m a bit more experienced than them. I fought many different opponents, have been in different situations and know what to expect from him.”
How important is mental approach in the fight game? How do you get ready for the fight mentally and do you feel any difference before a five-round title fight?
AL: “Mental approach is extremely important. There are many examples when fighters do not show their best, because they are not ready mentally. I would not say I have some features, each athlete has his own way, which suits him better. I feel some sort of aggression before the fight and pump myself up.
“I have been competing in MMA for a long time, so the upcoming fight is just another fight against another opponent for me, nothing special. The only difference is the trophy, aside from that, it’s just another fight.”
Nate Landwehr is quite a trash talker. Despite never insulting his opponents, he talks a lot and makes people talk about him and his fights. Does that affect you in any way?
AL: “Such behavior is nothing special nowadays. Many fighters talk a lot to attract attention, so I’m used to it. If this style suits him, why not? Before each fight opponents talk different things about each other, so there is nothing to surprise me. If does not bother me at all, let him talk what he wants.”