At 42 years old, Vladimir Matyushenko is among the very rare breed of old school MMA veterans that are still throwing down in today’s UFC against elite competition. Nicknamed “The Janitor” during his freestyle wrestling career, Matyushenko has been fighting professionally since 1997.
Similar to UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture, Matyushenko was even viewed as “the old guy” back in 2001 when he fought Tito Ortiz for the UFC Light Heavyweight title at UFC 33. Despite coming up short against Ortiz in that fight, the Belorussian has managed to stay in this sport longer than Ortiz.
Matyushenko was originally scheduled to meet Matt Hamill at UFC 152 in September but was forced off the card due to a serious Achilles injury. In just a few days “The Janitor” makes his return to the Octagon against Ultimate Fighter winner Ryan Bader at UFC on FOX 6 and he’s as ready as ever to come back with a vengeance.
“Some people were exaggerating about my Achilles injury but it was just the muscle that teared,” Matyushenko told BJPenn.com Radio.
“Thankfully it wasn’t too major and it was just a muscle tear because muscles heal faster than tendons. It wasn’t pleasant but now I’m 100% and ready to go.”
Matyushenko and Bader are coming off losses to Alexander Gustafsson and Lyoto Machida respectively. Bader has garnered a reputation for being one of the most explosive wrestlers in the light heavyweight division and he certainly has the credentials to back that up. However, Matyushenko is also a highly decorated takedown artist and actually enters this matchup with a better pedigree of pure wrestling credentials than Bader.
A former Soviet National Wrestling champion, Matyushenko believes that any sort of credentials will be irrelevant in this fight. It’s going to boil down to who is able to better implement their wrestling base in the cage.
“It’s not about wrestling credentials, we both have experience in that area but I think it’s going to come down to who is able to better transform amateur wrestling into MMA. We both have improved our striking so this will be a great matchup,” Matyushenko said.
“We are both coming off losses to strikers but it’s not just about throwing punches, it’s dealing with the range and the footwork which I’ve been working on a lot so we will see what he’s got.”
With over 30 professional fights, Matyushenko is still improving as he moves forward in the sport. This is something that most old school fighters are unable to do and they either retire or get beat on consecutively against younger fighters. Only the elite of the elite are getting past Matyushenko at this point. He’s still getting better and is still a nightmare matchup for most light heavyweights.
“I’m a student of the game and I learn as I go. I’m not just a fighter, I also coach and I graduated from university on physical education so that helps me learn more about my body,” Matyushenko said.
“MMA got to the point where it’s easier to learn from a lot of different material and I learn from a lot of these younger guys, including Jon Jones who I lost to.”
Matyushenko was dominated by Jones nearly three years ago. Jones is now the reigning light heavyweight champion but at the time of their meeting Matyushenko was billed as his toughest test. It was that bout that elevated Jones into a contender and eventually the champion he is now.
Matyushenko couldn’t be happier to see Jones at the top of the division.
“After my fight [with Jon Jones], I told him at the bar that he better win the freaking thing because I’m not losing to those crappy guys. He’s a very good student of the game and he’s not shy to ask questions,” Matyushenko said.
“Even after the fights he will ask questions, how to do this or how to do that, and that’s how you learn and get better. I’m also not afraid to ask questions either just like these young guys do.”
To listen to the full interview you can do so below:
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