The UFC recently signed one of the top middleweight prospects in the world, Roman Kopylov. We spoke to the Russian standout to get his background.
Roman Kopylov was brought up in a small village of only 1,000 people. Down the road, his parents and he moved to an even larger village where 15,000 people live. There, at the age of nine-years-old, Kopylov began training hand-to-hand combat.
Before coming into MMA, Kopylov had an extensive background in hand-to-hand combat where he was kind enough to let me know his accolades in the sport.
“I won three World Championships and was a silver medalist. I won European Championships twice, Russian Championships eight times and several Russian Cups.”
Many fighters, while performing in another form of martial arts for so long and then switch into another one usually the fighter, has problems transitioning over. Kopylov though has found hand-to-hand combat very similar.
“Hand-to-hand combat rules and MMA rule are very much alike. There is a striking technique and wrestling part, but there are time restrictions on how long you can clinch and hold. There are no restrictions on wrestling in MMA. Initially, it was hard, but I quickly adapted. Now I feel calm and confident.”
The big question surrounding Kopylov is his training situation and sparring partners. He clarified everything.
“I train at Bachatskiy. My main sparring partners are Alexey Marchenko and Konstantin Veselkin. Unfortunately, we don’t have many fighters with whom I could spar. That’s why before fights, I travel to Novosibirsk to join Alexander Matmuratov (9-4). We often organize joint training camps. Together we prepare for the fights and go to Moscow and St. Petersburg. Several times we had training camps in the Chechen Republic. I always start training at home and my final stages somewhere where I can wrestle and spar at the highest level possible.”
Kopylov is 8-0 with seven finishes via TKO. With a career full of success thus far, it’s not easy to pick a favorite moment for him.
“Each of my victories has a hard preparation regimen behind it, so every victory is pleasant and hard in its own way. Getting into the cage is the easiest part of the job. You do your job for 15 or 25 minutes and leave. Of course, for me, the victories by knockout are always pleasant. The most important for me are the last two fights for the Fight Night Global titles.”
Kopylov fights at middleweight and that weight class is at 185 pounds. That being said, every fighter has their own methods to get down to that target weight.
“I don’t need to lose a lot of weight. My normal weight is 92 kg (203lbs), so cutting to 84 kg is not an issue. I usually start 10 days before a fight. I don’t cut the weight with water, I do it through a diet. I avoid salt and sugar. Normally, my diet consists of chicken, eggs, protein, buckwheat, fish, vegetables and fruits and I train every day.”
Like most Russian fighters early in their career, Kopylov has stayed put on the Russian circuit in all eight bouts. When Kopylov was asked where he’d wanna fight outside of Russia, his dream location was the same as many foreign fighters all over the world.
“My dream is Las Vegas. I would like to fight in front of a large audience. But first of all, I have to prove that I’m worth it.
The past weekend, Kopylov announced he signed with the UFC and caught many fans off guard with the signing. However, the deal has been in the works for a while.
“Earlier I signed a contract with Team Rati. My manager Aleksandr Skaredin conducted all negotiations with the UFC and kept me informed. Now we are in the UFC and I’m so happy.”
Kopylov is not getting ahead of himself with his UFC aspirations. He understands that it is a long journey to the belt.
“The first goal is a debut. I have to showcase my hard work, to show my work ethic. With God’s blessing, I will win and proceed from there. Of course, like any fighter, I want to fight for the belt.”
Kopylov has hopes of becoming middleweight champion of the UFC and as he knows he still has a lot to prove he still has the map to the possible gold in the future.
“I don’t have a dream to fight with someone specific. I want to challenge the champion when the time comes no matter who it will be. I want to show exciting fights. I would like to be the one to bring the belt to Russia, to Siberia, to my hometown. It will be a real celebration. But it is too early to talk about it. I will do my best to make it happen.”
On April 20, Kopylov will make his promotional debut in St. Petersburg, Russia. His opponent will be tough veteran Krzysztof Jotko. With Alexander Matmuratov and Alexey Marchenko will be in his corner, Kopylov is ready to put on a show with Jotko.
“My next opponent is a good and strong fighter who prefers striking. That’s what I like to do too so our fight promises to be spectacular.”
Lastly, I asked Roman Kopylov why he fights for a living and who he fights for. His answer:
“I fight for my family. Fighting is my job and my life. One day it will be my legacy and my story, but now it is too early to talk about it.”