Sotir “The Trouble” Kichukov is always ready.
The 27-year-old Bulgarian, who trains out of Victory MMA in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, desperately wants to become a ONE World Champion. That singular motivation drives him to constantly train, and sharpen his skills around the clock.
So, when he was offered a short notice contest last week, he did not hesitate to accept.
“I am always training,” he states. “This is my career. This is my life.”
This coming Friday, 9 March, Kichukov (13-7) will meet former ONE Flyweight World Title challenger Danny “The King” Kingad (8-1) at ONE: VISIONS OF VICTORY. The event takes place at the Axiata Arena in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
“I accepted this bout because of my desire to compete, to overcome the mistakes I made in my last bout, and the desire to defeat my opponents,” he continues. “I want to prove myself.”
Kichukov feels like he has a lot to prove following his last bout.
After nearly a year away from the organization, Kichukov, a Max Fight Bantamweight Champion, made his return to ONE Championship in January. He dropped down to flyweight, his natural competition weight, and faced rising star “The Southern Eagle” Ma Hao Bin.
It was an exciting three-round affair, but Ma effectively mixed his strikes with a Chinese national wrestling championship pedigree to capture a hard-earned unanimous decision victory.
For “The Trouble,” it was another difficult loss, but the defeat was a blessing in disguise, as it made him realize something others have been preaching to him for quite some time.
“It finally made me understand what my coaches, my team, and my friends have been telling me — I am playing too safe in the competition, and not risking enough,” the Bulgarian combatant explains.
“It seems like I needed to go through these losses to finally get it. I do not think I was worse than my opponents before. I was just playing too safe. Look at the example of the legend, Fedor Emelianenko. He was the best martial artist of his time, and he never lost a match by a decision.
“So, after realizing this point, I will not get out of the cage by decision too. I will either knock out or submit my opponents. Or if not, I would be ready to risk everything to the level of being submitted or KOed.”
Kichukov may have learned this lesson the hard way, but a brief glimpse at the warrior’s history proves that he possesses a killer instinct. After all, of his 13 career victories, 10 of them have come by stoppage.
Now, with a renewed urgency to finish his adversaries, the Bulgarian draws arguably an even tougher challenge in Kingad, who himself is coming off a hard learning experience.
Kingad, a wushu champion who trains out of the famed Team Lakay camp in Baguio City, Philippines, recently suffered the first and only loss of his career. In November, the 22-year-old unsuccessfully challenged ONE Flyweight World Champion Adriano Moraes for the title at ONE: LEGENDS OF THE WORLD.
He froze under the bright lights, and succumbed to a rear-naked choke late in the first round. The young Filipino knows he needs to continue improving upon his grappling and build his confidence. Kichukov knows that too.
However, “The Trouble” is not overly impressed by his rival’s skill set.
“His wrestling and grappling seem to be ok. I would even say average. But he is sloppy, and I am better than him,” the Bulgarian states.
“In whatever area the match takes place, the striking or the grappling, I believe I can beat him, and finish him before the end of the third round.
“I respect him out of the cage, but in the cage and his career, I do not care what was his achievements are, and where he is planning to go. I just know, for now, that he is standing in my way, and I will have to remove him.”
Kichukov feels like he is on a path to destiny, and Kingad is the road block that stands between him and a clear path to the ONE Flyweight World Championship.
The Bulgarian knows there will be a lot of people who doubt him, considering he is on a losing skid. But “The Trouble” feels awakened. He has a new mentality and a heightened urgency to achieve his singular goal of martial arts glory.
After all, this is his career, and this is his life.
“It may sound funny after I had a streak of losses, but I am planning to be a world champion,” he states.
“My team tells me, and I believe this too, that I have everything to become a world champion. There were only some mistakes with my mindset. I was playing too safe. Now, you will see what I am talking about it. Watch me in this match.”