If you ask Anatoly “Sladkiy” Malykhin, he could never have achieved his incredible mixed martial arts success without the yin to his yang – his wife, Anita.
“My lovely wife always calls me ‘sweetie’ (English translation of ‘Sladkiy’). And when she became my manager, she said, ‘I only have one condition: You will be my ‘sweetie,’ and in fights, you will be ‘Sweetie,’” Malykhin reveals ahead of his co-main event showdown in Singapore.
It’s clear from the heavyweight’s anecdote and the pair’s social media output that they love spending time together and don’t take life too seriously.
The duo is always willing to make jokes that entertain the star athlete’s growing legion of fans. But beneath that fun exterior, Anita has had a much more profound impact on Anatoly’s career journey.
“My wife is the one person that believes in me more than I believe in myself,” he says.
“I had moments in my life where nobody believed in me. When I began talking to my love, I really had no belief in myself. I had a pretty rough past where people would do me dirty, those very close to me, and I [thought about quitting the] sport maybe three or four times.
“When I met my wife, it was as if there was a new surge of energy. I’ve never felt such newfound drive, ever.”
It was a match made in heaven. The former wrestler committed his life to mixed martial arts and even relocated to Thailand to pursue his dream.
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Anita was there every step of the way, providing encouragement as he battled to the top of the sport.
To thank her for that unwavering loyalty, Malykhin badly wants to win the World Championship on the global stage and bring home the gold that would change their lives.
“Because of that, for my family – I have a son now – I just want them to have everything,” he says.
“I want to give my son a life that I never had, so he can get a good education, so there is always delicious food on the table, so my wife can wear beautiful clothes, so she is taken care of, so she can drive nice cars.
“I’m so grateful for her. I love her an immeasurable amount.”
The life of an elite combatant is a grind that comes with pain, exhaustion, and setbacks.
But none of those can stop “Sladkiy” from putting himself through the wringer in hopes of giving his wife what she deserves for her commitment and support.
He simply looks at Anita and their young son, Lev, to find the fire he needs to keep pushing forward.
“Everything I do, I do it for them, and I’m happy to do it, it’s my greatest motivation,” Malykhin adds.
“I wake up and sometimes I don’t want to go to [training], but I look at them and go hard in the gym.”