Confident, well prepared ... and sharing the same gym as the Chechen president, Bigdash out to spoil the Burmese party

Russian defends his One Championship middleweight world title against local hero Aung La Nsang but is confident of victory having trained in the same gym as Chechen president and hardman Ramzan Kadyrov

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 June, 2017, 7:04pm
UPDATED : Friday, 30 June, 2017, 9:20am

Vitaly Bigdash is looking forward to breaking millions of Burmese hearts when he sets out to defend his One Championship middleweight world title against local hero Aung La Nsang in Yangon, Myanmar on Friday night.

“I have always had good experiences fighting on the enemies land,” said Bigdash on Thursday. “I am confident, well prepared – and by the end some of the fans will even be on my side.”

It’s the kind of confident statement that goes with the territory that has produced the 32-year-old Russian.

Bigdash has carved up his opponents on his way to a 9-0 record in MMA and puts credit for his performances down to the fact that he trains at the Akhmat Fight Team gym – owned and often used by Chechen president and notorious hardman Ramzan Kadyrov.

“We get great support from him,” said Bigdash. “The coaches, the environment – everything is the best. It’s one of the best gyms in the world. Many people don’t know about it and that’s why they underestimate our fighters. It’s not been around for long, all the fighters are young, and they are all very good.

[Kadyrov] has good stamina. He is always climbing mountains, running again and again and again, lifting weights and training to fight.”

While Kadyrov is apparently tough on himself, with exhaustive daily workouts that leave younger gym rats gobsmacked, he is harder still on minions who have fallen out of his favour.

“If someone in his team doesn’t meet his standards, he calls him into the ring and they have to fight someone else,” said Bigdash.

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Little wonder that Bigdash has forged a reputation as one of the baddest men in MMA – despite a laid-back demeanor, and a cherished, quiet life at home in Rostov-on-Don with his wife and one-year-old son.

He said he was first inspired to take up combat sports after watching Bruce Lee go to town on the bad guys in Way of the Dragon – and throughout his career the Russian has looked similarly unflappable when the heat is on.

“I love the atmosphere and the pre-fight procedures,” said Bigdash. “Some fighters get excited before they enter the cage but not me. I am relaxed. I reflect, and then I react accordingly.”

Bigdash took the One middleweight title from fellow Russian Igor Svirid after being floored three times in the first round of their bout back in October 2015, shrugging off a brutal assault before turning the bout on its head with a barrage of his own that left his opponent motionless on the mat with 0:36 left on the clock second. It was, justifiably, one of the fights of the year, anywhere.

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Myanmar’s Nsang (19-10, one no contest) next stepped up to the challenge as a late replacement for a title shot against Bigdash back in January, and held his own into the third round before a left foot to the head virtually settled the bout then and there. Nsang held on to last the five rounds, bravely, but Bigdash always looked in complete control.

The Russian calmly claimed his foe could expect a repeat dose when they renew acquaintances at the Thuwunna Indoor Stadium on Friday. It is a bout that has captured the imagination of a country of 54 million, with Nsang having been elevated to the rare status of sporting superstar here. Not that Bigdash seems concerned about ruining collective hopes local fans have of celebrating a first Burmese world MMA champion.

“I’d watched his fights, and he’d beaten one of my teammates,” said Bigdash. “I had learned about him. He was well prepared, otherwise he wouldn’t have taken up the challenge. We saw the result, and it will be the same.”

Bigdash said once the business was done in Yangon, he’d be heading back home for some quiet time with a son still too young to know how his father earns a living.

“He doesn’t know yet but he will soon enough,” said Bigdash. “One thing is for sure – he will be strong. This runs in the family.”