GLORY Kickboxing’s top light heavyweight contender from Lithuania agreed to answer Combat Press interview questions from Ruslan Navshyrvanov regarding his upcoming title shot. Sergej Maslobojev was put in line to fight for the now-vacant GLORY light heavyweight belt on Aug. 20 at GLORY 81 after Russian champion Artem Vakhitov was released from the organization.
Maslobojev shared his thoughts on his upcoming title fight, the war in Ukraine, the effect of politics on sports and much more.”
RN: The last time you competed in GLORY was in Oct. 2021 at Collision 3. After that, you had two fights at KOK in Vilnius. Earlier, you said that, under GLORY’s contract, you are allowed to perform in outside organizations until you are in the top five. Now you are in third place in the GLORY rankings. Have the terms of the contract changed?
SM: “First of all, I want to cordially greet all your readers. I would very much like to believe that, among them, there are those who follow my career and support me when I enter the ring. Well, if you don’t know me, let’s get to know each other.
“At the moment, I have already begun a new stage of preparation for the next fight in GLORY, moreover, it will be the fight of my life, and, at such a time, as a rule, I try to distance myself from communication outside my team, including with journalists. But it is a pleasure for me to talk to you and answer your questions, because in the context of the current situation in the world, I think it is an honor for me to give an interview to a Ukrainian.
“But back to your question. Initially, in the contract with GLORY, there was indeed a condition on the restriction on my participation in the fights of other organizations after reaching [fifth] place in the [rankings] of this promotion. But it just so happened that the organization, for its part, could not organize for me the number of fights that was originally agreed – there were objective and subjective reasons – and we came to a gentleman’s agreement that until I became number-one, they allow me to participate in battles of other organizations, if this does not overlap with the tournaments organized by GLORY itself. Of course, we agree on each such case separately, case by case, but when both sides have a desire to negotiate, they will always come to a general agreement and find a compromise.
“True, it should be clarified here that KOK is a Lithuanian promotion, although it conducts its tournaments throughout Europe and even Asia. It was in it that I began my conscious career as a fighter, when I realized that this was my path, and not just a hobby, and that’s why I always tried and try to take part in the KOK tournaments held in Lithuania in front of my audience. Because, I consider this as my tribute and a manifestation of well-deserved respect to my fans for their support throughout my career. GLORY knows this, and I hope that in the future we will find a common [ground] with them on this issue.”
RN: GLORY announced your fight with Luis Tavares for the title at the GLORY 81 tournament as a result of termination of the contracts of all Russian fighters. Was Tavares’ refusal to fight Vakhitov the initial trigger for this?
SM: “Luis was the first to show his position after the invasion of Russian troops into Ukraine. I can’t go into the details of GLORY’s inner workings, but I will say that, after that, there were other fighters with the same position, both regarding a potential fight with Artem Vakhitov himself, and regarding fights that in the future could lead to a fight with a representative of Russia. I know that if the organization hadn’t heard the voice of its top fighters – I can’t speak about the whole promotion, but in my weight category it’s for sure – and didn’t take the position that was announced a few days ago regarding the removal of Russian fighters, there would be serious problems with their organization.”
RN: Can the upcoming fight be called the main fight in your life?
SM: “Yes, and I mentioned this at the very beginning of our conversation. Moreover, this fight not only can be, but it should be called the main fight in my life, because in my hierarchy of priorities, there is no higher top in kickboxing than GLORY’s title. This is my old, cherished dream – the main goal in my career – and I am very glad that on Aug. 20, Luis Tavares and I will enter the ring and challenge this title.”
RN: You posted photos with Jan Blachowicz and Roz Namajunas. Do you train together, or was it one-time training?
SM: “Rose Namajunas is from Lithuania, and if you are talking about our common photos, then we only met her during one of her visits to her homeland. But this is just a pleasant acquaintance with a wonderful fighter, who is also a very pleasant and modest person.
“Jan and I crossed paths during my fight-club tour in Poland. Lithuania is not a big country and I just don’t have suitable sparring partners of my weight or above. For this reason, on my last visit to Poland, I wanted to gain experience with opponents new to me, of which there are plenty in Poland. It all ended with Jan Blachowicz’s team asking me to help prepare for the latest fight in the UFC against Aleksandar Rakic using my standing skills.”
RN: For October, GLORY announced the fight between Badr [Hari] and Alistair [Overeem]. Share your predictions.
SM: “Badr Hari and Alistair Overeem are not just fighters. In principle, this fight is something more than the end of the trilogy. The sporting result in the battle of these legends is not so important for me, but the very opportunity to once again feel and enjoy the aesthetics of their confrontation, and feel nostalgia for the times when they inspired people to get carried away by our harsh but wonderful sport, is important.”
RN: GLORY and many other organizations stopped cooperation with Russian athletes. At the same time, the Russians continue to perform regularly in the UFC. What do you think about it?
SM: “This is a question that cannot be resolved in a purely sporting area. It shows the moral principles of both the organizations themselves and their leaders, as well as individual fighters. I know for sure that I would not share the ring with a person who openly supports Russia’s actions on the territory of Ukraine, or who represents the country of the aggressor and avoids expressing his condemnation of the killings of free people in his native land.
“But I also want to note that a Russian is not a diagnosis and not a position on specific issues. In Russia, there are people who have not lost their conscience, and, for whom, it is more important than personal peace, prosperity and security. The trouble is that they seem to be in an absolute minority, and they are usually forced to flee their country. As far as I know, a few of these Russians are now voluntarily defending the freedom of Ukraine with weapons in their hands on a par with Ukrainians. Should they be on the same list as everyone else? I think, ‘no.’
“But if the representative of Russia does not openly voice and does not adhere to a clear position of condemning Russia’s actions in Ukraine, and the organization in which he speaks tries to voice the position, ‘we are out of politics,’ then such an organization itself is outside of true moral principles, in which commercialism has replaced the remnants of conscience. That’s what I think.”
RN: From the very beginning of the invasion, you supported Ukraine and actively volunteered. Can you tell me about it?
SM: “Lithuania may not be a big country, but the events in Ukraine are not alien to us. We can say that your pain is our pain. We live by it, and the vast majority of the population is trying in every possible way to help. Everything is here – from receiving refugees from Ukraine and providing them with everything necessary, to raising funds, necessary things and equipment for the needs of people in Ukraine, the needs of the front. And in the context of this, I don’t think it’s worth singling out myself, because it’s akin to trying to PR. [This is] not the time and not the place. It’s just important for me to know that my help is used both in Lithuania and in Ukraine. And this will continue until we are able to celebrate the complete victory of a free Ukraine. And be sure that in my words, the position is not of an individual, but of the whole of Lithuania.”
RN: Now some EU countries continue to try to engage in dialogue with Russia. Lithuania has taken a tough stance since 2014 and has never been afraid to condemn the Russian Federation. How does your small country has such big balls?
SM: “It is possible to see something differently from the outside, perhaps this can only be understood in comparison, but it seems to me that our position is simply natural, and I don’t really imagine anything else.
“Another thing is both painful and scary to look at is the actions of some big and strong European partners in the EU and NATO – how they duplicitously try to get out, how their rhetoric differs from their actions and how they try to play on two fronts. It is on them, on their actions and assistance, that the situation in your long-suffering land largely depends. It seems that, in their countries, there is not only no unity, but also no awareness that today Ukraine is fighting not only for its own, but also for the freedom of all of Europe. It is shameful and painful to watch how those who should have helped Ukraine especially strongly leave you alone in front of a common enemy. And the blood of ordinary Ukrainians is on their hands.
“We, Lithuanians, fought for our independence ourselves. Our partisans resisted the Soviet regime for almost 30 years after the occupation of 1940. People who came out against tanks with their bare hands died in 1991. We were the first to break ties with the occupation structure called the USSR, and we are fine understood the threat from the East, as we understand it now. Therefore, the situation in Ukraine has united our country like never before, and the level of support can be judged by how, in a country with only 2.7 million inhabitants, ordinary people collected 5.9 million Euros in three-and-a-half days to buy a Bayraktar drone with ammunition for your country.
“We understand that you do not have a Plan B, and I know for sure that Lithuania will continue to participate with you in your struggle on all possible fronts of action.
“But, if we started talking about big balls, then it was your people who showed the whole world what it is. And definitely no one can take that away from you.”
RN: Putin said that the special operation would last until May 9th. But by this date, they had not achieved even intermediate successes, and the war silently continued. When and how will it end?
SM: “I cannot and do not want to comment on the plans and actions of this person. I can only say that, in my opinion, he has definitely entered world history. But not in the way he expected and wanted, but as one of the most terrible tyrants and murderers of the 21st century.
“As for the end of the horror that he started on the territory of your country, then a lot of factors influence when it ends. I wish with all my heart that this be done as soon as possible and took as few lives as possible.”
RN: A message to all Russians from Sergei Masloboev?
SM: “I would really like everyone to always remember the boomerang law – everything we do, even everything we think, comes back to us. It is the same with what we give away. Do good, and it will come back to you. And think about what you will do when the evil that you do to others returns to you.
“But these words are not intended for representatives of any particular nation, country or race, but for all people, including myself.”
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