Vitaly Bigdash is ready for a second take.
Nearly 11 months on from losing the ONE Middleweight World Championship to Aung La “The Burmese Python” N Sang via unanimous decision – in a contest that was awarded Bout Of The Year 2017 – the Russian is finally prepared to kickstart his journey back to the world title.
“This guy is very good, there is no doubt about it,” the 33-year-old Russian states.
“I understand he might want to take the fight to the ground, but my intention is not to let him do it. I have to prepare myself for any scenario.”
Originally, this contest was supposed to happen four months ago at ONE: KINGS OF COURAGE, also in Jakarta. However, just days before the event, the Rostov, Russia native was forced to withdraw from the event.
After starting his training camp back home, Bigdash flew out to Thailand for the second leg of his preparation, which has become the norm for the former titleholder. He was readying himself at Phuket Top Team, but following three weeks of hard work in Southeast Asia, things began to unravel.
Something did not feel right, and it had not felt right for quite some time.
“That fight camp was a nightmare,” Bigdash says.
“There were many problems in different areas of my life, and I did not feel at my best. But a job is a job, and I kept pushing through. I had my mind set on this fight.”
A committed athlete, Bigdash kept giving it 100 percent during his training sessions. Though he was should have been entering peak physical condition, he started to feel ill, and soon, it was discovered that he had a staph infection.
“My team and I were ready to go, but literally, just several days before we had to board that plane to Jakarta, my temperature shot up. Then a small blister appeared on my knee. In just a day, it became enormous. My knee was swollen, and throbbing with pain,” the frustrated competitor explains.
“Sometimes, fighters carry on with the job even when they are infected, but it was not going to happen in this case. The doctor had to open the wound on my knee. I already had an abscess, and the only way to treat it was to cut it open and drain it. It was a painful process.”
Bigdash was not comfortable with canceling the bout, especially considering he spent nearly four weeks away from his loved ones, and it would delay his path back to the middleweight world title.
Nonetheless, it was a call he was forced to make for the sake of his health.
“I apologized to Leandro about having to withdraw. I understand that he is a family man, too, and has to put food on the table for his loved ones,” Bigdash says.
“There is no beef. I actually respect this guy, and his reaction was very cool. All I can hope for now is that we both come to this fight well prepared, and give fans a good show.”
Despite the fiasco in January, Bigdash has continued his tradition when his match with Ataides was rebooked for ONE: GRIT & GLORY. He spent the first half of his camp training in his native Russia, and then returned to “The Land Of Smiles” for the other half of his camp with his second family at Phuket Top Team.
To ensure he does not get another infection, Bigdash travels with a pack of antibacterial medication his doctor advised him to buy in Russia before traveling to Phuket.
“I have a complicated routine now,” he says. “I am cleaning my skin thoroughly, and I put antiseptic on every small cut immediately. Maybe I am a bit paranoid now.”
That distraction has not stopped the Russian from focusing on studying Ataides. The five-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion naturally has dangerous grappling, but he has also been knocking his adversaries out with powerful striking. In fact, “Leo” is on a two-bout win streak, and has more knockout victories (five) than submission wins (two).
Bigdash reveals he has watched the Brazilian’s matches in order to analyze his foe’s technique, and prepare himself for any surprises the tenacious Nova Uniāo product might have up his sleeve.
“I know his weak and strong points, and I do have a game plan to address both,” he confesses. “But I am going to keep my cards close to the chest. I can only say that my goal is to win, and I will use my plan to do so.”
A win could lead Bigdash straight back to the ONE Middleweight World Title, and a trilogy match with Aung La N Sang. The idea is definitely in the back of his mind, but before the Russian can even contemplate the future, he knows he must defeat the opponent directly in front of him first.
“Of course, I want to get the belt back,” he states.
“Now my goal is to eliminate Leandro, and after this victory I can think in detail about how I am going to get to where I want to be next.”