He's a former ballroom dancer and 12 other facts about Ireland's newest UFC debutant

Artem Lobov fights tomorrow night in Las Vegas.

AFTER PROGRESSING TO the final stage of the competition, Artem Lobov will make his debut in the UFC tomorrow night at The Ultimate Fighter 22 Finale.

Here’s what you should know about the 29-year-old Straight Blast Gym fighter, who’ll be fighting for a UFC contract at The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas.

He lives in Dublin now but was born 4,000km away…

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Lobov grew up in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia’s fifth largest city. His family moved to Ireland 13 years ago, having also spent a few years in Argentina. He now holds an Irish passport and says he proudly represents both Russia and Ireland. Lobov has been competing under the Irish tricolour throughout The Ultimate Fighter.

He had a near-death experience as a child…

“When I was born, the doctors forgot to give me a TB [tuberculosis] shot, for whatever reason. One day I was by myself outside by where we lived, and I got my head stuck between these railings. I couldn’t get out and I was choking. I ended up unconscious and I was basically dying right there,” Lobov says.

“Luckily, a guy found me there and somehow managed to pull me out and saved my life. But it turned out that he had just been released from prison and had TB, which he passed on to me. I ended up in hospital for a year and got through it, although I was under supervision for about six years after that before being cleared.”

He used to be a ballroom dancer…

Lobov’s mother wouldn’t allow him to take up boxing. Instead, she sent him to ballroom dancing classes for five years: “Growing up in the Soviet Union, ballroom dancing wasn’t the coolest thing to do,” Lobov recalls. “But that probably made me tougher, because it wasn’t an easy task to do ballroom dancing and not get bullied. And I never got bullied in my life, even though I changed to five secondary schools in three different countries.

The Ultimate Fighter: Team McGregor vs Team Faber Brandon Magnus / Zuffa LLC Brandon Magnus / Zuffa LLC / Zuffa LLC

“There are definitely benefits for MMA too in terms of the footwork. Men in general are shy with their movement. You’ll see it in a nightclub; girls will be on the dancefloor giving it loads and the lads will be standing there watching them, holding their pints. Men aren’t great movers so the ballroom dancing freed me in terms of the movement, which is really what fighting is about; footwork and controlling distance.”

He didn’t take up martial arts until he was 21…

While studying for a BA in Business Studies and Spanish at Dublin City University, he stumbled upon an ad on the campus for self-defence classes. That was his introduction to martial arts and from there he eventually made his way to the renowned Straight Blast Gym.

He quit his job in a bank to pursue MMA full-time…

Despite having a masters degree in finance, Lobov left his job with Bank of America last year in order to focus entirely on carving out a career with the UFC, MMA’s leading organisation. So far, so good.

He likes to fight as often as possible…

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Enjoying fighting is a minimum requirement in Lobov’s field, but few fighters stay as active as him. He competed six times in his first year as a professional and has become known for his willingness to accept fights against high-calibre opponents with minimal notice. Lobov had 23 professional bouts in just over four years before opting to enter the running for the latest season of The Ultimate Fighter.

He doesn’t care much for weight classes…

On that theme, Lobov has competed at featherweight (145lbs), lightweight (155lbs) and welterweight (170lbs) in a bid to stay active: “If you truly believe that all the training you do can go out the window just because a guy is a few pounds heavier than you, that’s just crazy,” says Lobov.

He’s Conor McGregor’s main sparring partner…

Lobov has begun to carve out his own path recently thanks to the exposure offered by The Ultimate Fighter, but he has become more recognisable in recent years due to his regular appearances in Conor McGregor’s corner and as the man exchanging blows with the UFC interim featherweight champion in UFC promo videos, such as the Embedded series.

He once forced McGregor to withdraw from a fight after injuring him in training…


“He [McGregor] was getting ready to defend his title against Jim Alers on Cage Warriors and it was a huge fight. He was trying to make it into the UFC. It was back in the days when we didn’t really care that much about safety. We didn’t even wear headgear. We just used to go at it,” Lobov explains.

“We literally would come in on a Sunday — just the two of us with no-one in the gym — lock the doors and we’d just go at it. No headgear, no nothing and small gloves. Survival, basically. In one of those sparring sessions, I hit him and I broke his orbital [bone] and he ended up out of the fight.”

He’s been stopped just once in his last 22 fights…

Lobov’s professional record is mixed but he has proven himself to be extremely difficult to beat inside the distance. Since losing to current UFC featherweight Mike Wilkinson via second-round TKO in September 2011, only Cage Warriors champion Alex Enlund has managed to put Lobov away. Including his four appearances on The Ultimate Fighter, that’s a run of 22 fights.

He has experienced MMA’s version of a last-second winner…

Lobov faced Bellator veteran Andrew Fisher at Cage Warriors 70 last year in one of the biggest fights of his career. With the contest potentially en route to a win for Fisher via the judges’ scorecards, Lobov intervened and secured the finish at the 4:59 mark of the third and final round.

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He had a slice of good fortune en route to his UFC debut…

Lobov lost to Mehdi Baghdad in his fight to make it into the TUF house, but he was given a second bite at the cherry when UFC president Dana White decided that one fighter from each team would be given a wildcard route back into the competition. Lobov capitalised, picking up three consecutive wins to reach tomorrow’s final.

He has an unusual style of fighting with his hands down…

Lobov: “Having your hands up doesn’t stop you from getting knocked out and there are a lot of advantages to having your hands down. It’s also more exciting because it looks very impressive from the fans’ perspective, which is a big factor in the entertainment business.

“My shots come from very awkward angles and people don’t see them, and it’s also good to stop the takedown. My hands are already down so it’s easier to get the underhooks. There are a lot of benefits to this style.”

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