Matyushenko looks to clean up in Toronto 0
Vladimir Matyushenko (right) knocked out Jason Brilz in 20 seconds the last time he fought in Toronto, at UFC 129. He'll take on Matt Hamill at UFC 152 later this month. (ZUFFA LLC VIA GETTY IMAGES)
Toronto MMA fans only got a brief glimpse of Vladimir Matyushenko at UFC 129 last year, but the Belarusian light-heavyweight gave them their money’s worth.
Matyushenko fought like he was double-parked outside the Rogers Centre that night, knocking out Jason Brilz in only 20 seconds.
Following the victory, the MMA veteran soaked in the applause of 55,724 rabid fans, a moment that ranks among the most memorable of his career.
“Definitely, it was a good fight for me, but it was also the biggest event ever at that time,” Matyushenko said over the phone. “Before the fight, I was just kind of concentrating on the fight, but after I saw the audience and just how huge it was. I would say it’s one of the greatest moments in my career.
“When I walked out, I had to concentrate. I tried not to overwhelm myself. I knew how big it was, but I just tried not to pay attention. After the fight, I had a chance to look at it and enjoy it.”
When the UFC offered Matyushenko the opportunity to replace injured Roger Hollett against Matt Hamill at UFC 152 at the Air Canada Centre on Sept. 22, he jumped at the opportunity to fight in Toronto again.
“I still think that Toronto and Canadian fans are the best,” Matyushenko said. “That’s one of the reasons I took the fight right now because I think it’s a lucky city for me.”
A cast member of The Ultimate Fighter Season 2, Hamill shocked the MMA world by announcing his retirement one year ago, citing a slew of nagging injuries for his decision. After some much-needed time off, the former NCAA Division III wrestler decided to get back in the cage.
Though Matyushenko admitted he was surprised Hamill walked away from the sport, he knows what it’s like to be mentally exhausted from years of competition. After suffering a TKO loss to Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 141 in December, the former IFL light-heavyweight champion knew he needed a break.
“It’s pretty easy to get burned out in this game — especially at my age,” the 41-year-old said. “But I never stopped training. I’ve been training with fighters — actually I was in Toronto for Lyoto Machida’s and Jon Jones’ fight. I went back to Belarus — my father had health problems, so I had to take care of that. That’s about it. I’ve spent the summer in L.A. enjoying the nice weather.”
Matyushenko said he isn’t astonished Hamill opted to return.
“I was actually more surprised he retired than (his decision to come) back,” Matyushenko said. “A lot of people retire and come back. Sometimes it’s just better to take time off and chill out than to say, ‘I’m retired’ and come back. Just being burned out mentally can put you in that position, but for me I just say I’m going to take a break and come back when I’m ready.
“I was fighting in the UFC a while ago and then I stopped for a few years and decided to come back. I went to IFL just to test myself out (and see) if I’m ready for UFC. Then I came back. It happens all the time.”
With both fighters refreshed from their respective hiatuses, Matyushenko feels fans are in for a hell of a fight. Though he admitted accepting a bout with only four weeks notice can be risky, he feels Hamill’’s style is easy to prepare for since it’s somewhat similar to his own.
“He’s a well-rounded fighter, but I don’t have to train for something specific, like with Jon Jones, or somebody like Lyoto Machida who is left-handed and does crazy kicks,” Matyushenko said. “I just have to get in shape and perform at my best. So I don’t really have to do any specific things. I just have to be in decent shape and make weight.
“That’s why I took it on short notice. Maybe for somebody else I would have needed more preparation.
“We’re very similar in a way, too. I think that’s why it’s going to be an exciting fight. He’s a wrestler, I’m a wrestler. He’s got some good knockouts and good strikes. I’ve got my knockout against Jason Brilz in Toronto. I think we’re pretty even in skills.”
AROUND THE RING
Hector Lombard will meet Rousimar Palhares at UFC on FX 6 in Australia on Dec. 14 ... Canadian strikers Sam Stout and John Makdessi will square off at UFC 154 in Montreal Nov. 17 ... Also at UFC 154, Canadian-Salvadoran bantamweight Ivan Menjivar returns against Azamat Gashimov and Fabio Maldonado faces Cyrille Diabate ... World Series of Fighting will hold its inaugural event in Las Vegas on Nov. 3. The card, which will be broadcast on NBC Sports, features UFC veterans Miguel Torres, Ronys Torres, John Gunderson, Josh Burkman, Gerald Harris, Rolles Gracie and James McSweeney, as well as former pro-wrestler Bobby Lashley.