Ever since former ONE Middleweight World Champion Vitaly Bigdash was a child, he always wanted his father to be proud of him.
The Russian has spent his entire life trying to be a good person, and displaying all the fine qualities that his dad possessed, such as courage, discipline, kindness, and integrity.
Now, as the martial artist raises a family of his own, he believes he has achieved that childhood objective.
“I am sure my dad can be proud of me,” the 33-year-old believes. “I focus on my goals and work towards them. Sometimes, there are setbacks, but they are part of the journey.”
That journey involved moving around a lot when he was a child, and sometimes not even seeing his dad for long periods of time.
Bigdash’s father was a colonel in the Russian Armed Forces, so that meant the family had to relocate to a different compound almost every two years. The patriarch also worked very long hours, so he did not get to enjoy a lot of time at home with his wife and children.
That meant it was up to Bigdash’s mother to “create a peaceful and homely atmosphere where we all were happy.”
Even though it was tough at times, Bigdash’s mom did whatever she could to provide a warm and safe environment for her daughter and son. In fact, it is safe to say that she was the glue that held the family together.
“My mother was a wise woman. She knew what she was getting herself into when marrying a military man. She never complained. She had a strong character,” he says with a chuckle.
”We made it work somehow. I did not get to see my dad during the week much, as he was out very early and back very late. But we spent weekends together, whenever we could.”
His parents undoubtedly played an incredible role in Bigdash’s development as a person, but at the age of 10, he was shaped by another powerful force – Kyokushin karate. After moving to another military base, his father’s buddies knew about a karate dojo on site, and his dad immediately brought his son there to begin his martial arts training.
It was a good decision, since the elder Bigdash himself could not spend much time with the boy. The martial arts gym championed courage, discipline, kindness, and integrity — all qualities Bigdash loved about his military father.
The more he trained, the better he got, and the more he started to display all those prized values. He spent all his time in the dojo, as if he had found a second family. In the gym, he could not be happier.
“I quickly saw myself grow and change as a person,” he recalls. “My parents sowed good seeds in my soul, and then martial arts made me who I really am. It shaped my character when I was young.”
Martial arts kept him grounded, and gave him the tools he needed to realize his dream of becoming a world champion in the cage.
He achieved that in October 2015, when he defeated Igor Svirid via TKO in an incredible performance, and claimed the ONE Middleweight World Championship.
Though he lost the belt to Myanmar’s favorite son Aung La “Burmese Python” N Sang back in June 2017, Bigdash is about to take the first step on his road to redemption.
“I am on mission to get back my middleweight title. I see him (Ataides) as my first step on the way back to the top,” the Russian says.
Reclaiming the greatest prize in martial arts may be his top career goal, but he also has some personal goals he wants to accomplish, too.
For instance, he wants to continue to cultivate and nurture his relationship with his father. Though he did not get to spend too much time with him during his childhood, Bigdash has made it a point to bond with him more in recent years, and strengthen that relationship.
“He is more of a teacher to me now than when I was young. I have always loved and admired him, but now we both have more time to talk about life, and I understand him a lot more,” says Bigdash, who moved to Rostov-on-Don in southern Russia to be close to his parents.
The other personal goal Bigdash has is to spend as much time as possible with his own young son.
Bigdash has to put in hours upon hours of hard work in training almost every single day to become a world champion. Unfortunately, that means he will miss several key moments in his son’s life, such as his first steps.
The Russian has learned from his past experience with his own father, however, and is determined to bond with his child more whenever he can.
“Since my son was born in 2016, all my life rotates around the family, and I am happy about it. The happiness that he brought cannot be described with words,” the former ONE Middleweight World Champion explains.
“I want us to spend a lot of time together, more than I got to spend with my dad. When I am away getting ready for matches, I miss him terribly. I do not want to wait until he is a 20-something to become my friend.”