Coach John Kavanagh pens lengthy statement in defense of Artem Lobov

Artem Lobov

Last night, in the co-main event of UFC Moncton, SBG Ireland staple and Conor McGregor training partner Artem Lobov came up short against former lightweight contender Michael Johnson. Johnson took the bout on short notice, replacing Lobov’s original opponent Zubaira Tukhugov, and missed weight for the bout.

With this loss, Artem Lobov fell onto a three-fight skid. His overall record, meanwhile, now sits at 13-15-1. Given these less-than-stellar stats, some fans feel that Lobov has only been kept around by the UFC due to his closeness with Conor McGregor.

The pair’s head coach John Kavanagh hopes fans will reconsider that notion. Kavanagh penned a lengthy statement in defense of Artem Lobov shortly after UFC Moncton.

“Artem Lobov is only in the UFC because of his relationship with Conor McGregor. Maybe. Only for Conor he would not have been brought back after his preliminary loss on the Ultimate Fighter and, who knows, maybe quit. He has a losing record and just suffered another loss last night. If it’s just records you’re interested in, if someone’s win/loss record is as deep as your analysis is capable of then I’d stop reading now. Actually if you’ve never really tried to achieve anything yourself and instead enjoy making snide remarks and commentating on where the ‘the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better’ then I recommend Chuck Mindenhall’s recent article.

But if you are interested in a sincere argument, one which we may disagree on at the end, then continue. I would just ask that you are honest and base your points on logic rather than your dislike for his high profile teammate. So does Artem deserve to be in the UFC based on his own merits? Should he be cut after another loss? Well firstly, if losses against high level opposition were the only criteria for being cut then you’d be quickly left with just 2 in each weight class. Sounds obvious but on every fight card HALF the fighters lose. Cut them all?

So dont cut fighters who lose more than they win? Obviously not. Someone like CM Punk who although ‘entertaining’ clearly could not compete at the UFC level. His last fight was against someone who was 1-0 as an amateur and 0-2 as a pro. For his own health he needs to fight much lower level competition. So is Artem similar? Very low skill level but has a famous mate? Well let’s look at the evidence starting with last night. I’ve been a big fan of MJ for years now. Ran over LW ‘in the title mix’ Poirier in less than 2mins. Beat the very skilled Tony Ferguson and Edson Barboza. So surely when the once no.5 ranked LW in the world fought Artem it was going to be a complete mismatch? Then how is it after 2 rounds 2 judges had it even going into the 3rd. Round 3 was close until MJ snatched it with a terrific takedown. Well done and great win. But that’s not the point. One could hardly argue it was a one sided beat down.

What about his run on the Ultimate Fighter. Impossible to argue he did not catch a lucky break getting the ‘Wildcard’. But what did he do with that break? KO’d 3 guys in a row to fight on the finale. Only a handful of fighters on the planet have been able to achieve a run on TUF like that.

What happened when he met ‘perennial contender’ Cub Swanson. BJJ Blackbelt and aggressive creative striker with huge amount of experience at one of the best training camps in the world. Artem only got that main event slot because of Conor right? He was going to be badly exposed and KO’d or Sub’d in a minute or two right? Wrong. 25 tough minutes where Artem had his moments and jointly earned ‘fight of the night’ award. Although he ultimately lost, to say it looked like he did not belong in the UFC would be to speak with emotion because you dislike him/Conor rather than fact based on performance.

Artem is a rare breed of fighter. A fighters’ fighter. I’ve had conversations with top brass in the top organisations and they tell me it doesn’t matter who your guys fight, just get them winning records and we’ll take them on. That’s all that matters and has been commonplace in professional boxing for a long long time. Get them to 12-0 and we’ll sign them. That’s not Artem’s approach. Every fight was the toughest fight he could possibly find. Often times we would argue about that as I would try and guide him a little bit. He did not want to know. It is absolutely not the most efficient approach if you want to get to the ‘big organisations’. It’s one I’ve learned from but it’s also one that is impossible not to respect.

I’ll admit I’m writing this partially from a position of emotion. Artem is a friend and because I know about his incredibly tough life, I really hope he writes a book one day as it’d be far more interesting than the book I put out, it stings more than most. Plus his genuine ‘anyone, anytime’ attitude, often cited….so rarely true cannot help but impress the fan in me. As a training partner he will be incredibly tough on you, ruthlessly honest and would give you his last euro if you needed it. However that being said, I believe his performances in the cage against the highest level opposition in the world is worthy of a lot more respect that it gets. I don’t think Artem has the skills to be a UFC World Champion, I can be honest and state that but he 100% has earned the respect of his fellow fighters and shown, independently, he earned his spot on that stage. He understands the business and knows how to build a fight and always brings an exciting contest. Love him, hate him fans are always engaged when the Russian Hammer is on a card. I do not know what is next for him. Maybe he will decide to put his masters in finance or his fluency in 5 languages to use in the corporate world but if he fights again I will proudly stand behind him holding his bucket.” -John Kavanagh on Artem Lobov

Do you think we’ll see Artem Lobov fight in the UFC again after UFC Moncton?

This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 10/26/2018.