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'He had a target on his back' - Lobov ready for the fight he's been chasing

The Straight Blast Gym featherweight returns to familiar territory tonight for his sixth outing in the UFC.

BEING BACK IN Poland this week has served as a reminder for Artem Lobov of just how far he has come in quite a short space of time.

Lobov’s last two fights before he eventually graduated to the Ultimate Fighting Championship in 2015 took place on Polish territory. He has returned to the country this week for his sixth outing in the UFC, but this time the set-up is much more palatable than what he encountered in the past.

Artem Lobov Artem Lobov Source: Presseye/Matt Mackey/INPHO

“It’s great to be back here in a good environment like this. Some of the shows I fought on here were in the back arse of nowhere. the Dublin-based featherweight told MMAjunkie.com.

“There was one hotel I was staying in where there was no water in the shower. I had to eat a kebab after the weigh-ins because there was no food. But it never stopped me, it didn’t matter to me. I’m here to fight and I’ll always be here to fight.”

The man with arguably the best nickname in the UFC — Andre ‘Touchy’ Fili — will be Lobov’s opponent tonight at UFC Fight Night 118 in Gdansk. After main-event billing in his last outing, Lobov has perhaps surprisingly found himself on the prelims on this occasion, despite the unexceptional quality of the rest of the card.

Following back-to-back wins over Chris Avila and Teruto Ishihara, Lobov was catapulted into a headline bout with Cub Swanson, one of the featherweight division’s top contenders, in April. The Russian-born fighter suffered a unanimous-decision defeat in Nashville, but for many observers he enhanced his reputation with a courageous and resilient display.

Having spent the summer helping his Straight Blast Gym team-mate Conor McGregor to prepare for his boxing bout with Floyd Mayweather, Lobov will be searching for his third win under the UFC’s umbrella this evening against an opponent he first encountered two years ago.

While earning a place on the UFC roster by reaching the finale of The Ultimate Fighter, the organisation’s reality show, Lobov crossed paths with Fili, who was one of Urijah Faber’s coaches on the opposing team.

With eight UFC bouts under his belt and having shared the octagon with the likes of Yair Rodriguez and current featherweight champion Max Holloway, Fili is more experienced at this level and will go into tonight’s bout as the favourite.

But Lobov isn’t daunted by the prospect of taking on the 27-year-old product of Team Alpha Male in California, whose last outing saw him beaten in an upset at UFC 214 in July by newcomer Calvin Kattar, who was victorious via unanimous decision.

“Like I said when I came into the UFC, no one is safe. I want to fight everyone — any time, any place. It’s the same with Andre,” said Lobov, who’ll be looking to take his professional record to 14-13-1-1 against Fili (16-5).

“He was the first UFC guy that I got a chance to kind of interact with and he was in my weight class, so by all means he had a target on his back for me. It didn’t happen as soon as I wanted it to happen — I wanted that fight immediately after The Ultimate Fighter — but it’s here now.”

Lobov added: “I want to show him what’s up. He was there obviously as a coach and I was just there as a fighter. But I’ll be doing the coaching on Saturday night.”

Source: UFC - Ultimate Fighting Championship/YouTube

With this evening’s card taking place on this side of the Atlantic, it offers fans in this part of the world a rare opportunity to watch the fights live at a reasonable hour. The action kicks off on UFC Fight Pass at 4.30pm Irish time.

The main attraction sees Liverpool’s Darren Till make a significant step-up in competition. The undefeated welterweight will be aiming to cause a big shock when he faces veteran Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone, who’s keen to bounce back after suffering consecutive losses for the first time in his career at the hands of Robbie Lawler and Jorge Masvidal.

UFC Fight Night 118

Main card (BT Sport — 8pm)

Donald Cerrone vs. Darren Till
Karolina Kowalkiewicz vs. Jodie Esquibel
Jan Błachowicz vs. Devin Clark
Oskar Piechota vs. Jonathan Wilson

Preliminary card (UFC Fight Pass — 4.30pm)

Marcin Held vs. Nasrat Haqparast
Anthony Hamilton vs. Adam Wieczorek
Damian Stasiak vs. Brian Kelleher
Sam Alvey vs. Ramazan Emeev
Artem Lobov vs. Andre Fili
Salim Touahri vs. Warlley Alves
Lina Länsberg vs. Aspen Ladd
Felipe Arantes vs. Josh Emmett

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