Kirill Grishenko has the biggest opportunity of his career ahead of him, and he plans to take full advantage of it.
The undefeated Belarusian squares off against Russian powerhouse Anatoly “Sladkiy” Malykhin for the ONE Interim Heavyweight World Title in the co-main event of ONE: BAD BLOOD at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Friday, 11 February.
His shot at ONE gold may have come sooner than he anticipated, but Grishenko is ready to show that he deserves to be among the elite when he takes on his fellow unbeaten opponent. And he’ll leave everything inside the Circle to do it.
“Well, of course, it was unexpected to get this opportunity right away. But I was very happy because I work for this goal. I train hard for this. I will do my best to achieve my goal,” he says.
“It’ll be a great leap in my MMA career and a boost for my further development. I don’t plan to stop, but I’ll continue showing flashy, spectacular fights to make my fans and loved ones happy, and also to prove I deserve to be one of the best fighters in the world.”
For his part, Malykhin has suggested that the Minsk resident won’t be up to the task and will be no match for him when they square off.
Grishenko isn’t fazed at being underestimated, however. He’s used to it by now and prefers to let his fighting do the talking – and the perfect 5-0 slate he has amassed in his career to date speaks for itself.
“I’ve been called an underdog in each of my fights, but it’s cool for me. I like to prove the opposite, not just to the audience, but to myself,” the 30-year-old says.
“If I’m given a chance, I’ll try to take it. It doesn’t matter what people say. I know how hard I’ve worked and what I’ve gone through. I fully deserve this chance.
“I think we’ll find it out on the [11th], whether he’ll surprise me with his speed and knock me out. Just wait for that day. It’s all I can say. I just don’t like to talk. I like to do.”
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While “Sladkiy” might be expecting to run through his opponent en route to the crown, Grishenko is taking his Russian rival seriously.
Both men come from wrestling backgrounds, so he knows that grappling will be a hard-fought part of their bout. But he’s also noticed developments in Malykhin’s stand-up game and is aware he’ll have to be careful in every range.
“He’s a very high-class opponent. I watched all his fights, and he’ll be a big challenge,” Grishenko says.
“He’s a multi-faceted fighter. He does a lot of things well. He’s from freestyle wrestling. That’s in his genes. Recently, he’s improved his striking significantly, but I’m ready for everything.”
In the end, there is no easy route to victory against an explosive athlete like Malykhin, but Grishenko and his team feel that their best bet is to be the more well-rounded athlete on the night.
The M2G and MGC representative has a well-developed ground game, having operated at an elite level in Greco-Roman wrestling, and he’s added a fiery striking game to work alongside it. This combination proved lethal when he stopped Oumar “Reug Reug” Kane in his ONE debut last April.
By forcing every element of his game on “Sladkiy,” the Belarusian believes he has a good chance of victory.
“We have some templates, which I won’t reveal. Generally, me and my coach Konstantin Mikhailovich Makhankov believe it’s better to be an all-around fighter. So we develop all aspects. But we do have our game plan,” he says.
“I’ve trained for him seriously and will be ready for all five rounds with him. I don’t have any doubts, I believe in myself – and I’ll go to the end.”
Grishenko isn’t the kind of competitor to boldly pick his shot, but he feels Malykhin has made a mistake by not giving him enough credit.
With that said, he plans to deliver an exciting performance in Singapore – and top it off with an emphatic finish if he gets the chance.
“Any fighter wants to knock out his opponent, so I’m primed for a knockout,” he says.
“I respect Anatoly, and I think we’ll stage an excellent fight. Let’s give a big show.”