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Dublin: 6 °C Thursday 24 January, 2019
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Artem Lobov: 'Whether people want me to or not, I'll represent Ireland on the big stage'

The newest Irish UFC debutant discusses his dual nationality.

Artem Lobov holds the Russian and Irish flags aloft after his TUF 22 win against James Jenkins.
Artem Lobov holds the Russian and Irish flags aloft after his TUF 22 win against James Jenkins.

– Paul Dollery reports from Las Vegas

HE MAY HAVE been born 4,000 kilometres away from Dublin, but Artem Lobov will proudly carry the Irish flag to the octagon tonight when he makes his UFC debut.

With the green, white and orange tricolour in one hand and the Russian flag in the other, Lobov faces Ryan Hall at the TUF 22 Finale at The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas.

The 29-year-old secured his spot on tonight’s bill by defeating James Jenkins, Chris Gruetzemacher and Julian Erosa on the latest season of The Ultimate Fighter.

Throughout the tournament, Lobov competed with the Irish flag beside his name. Following the recent release of Paul Redmond and Cathal Pendred’s retirement, Lobov’s debut in the octagon provides a timely boost to Ireland’s UFC presence.

Some have questioned his claim to Irish nationality, but that assertion will be contested by Lobov as fervently as tonight’s lightweight bout against Hall.

“I never hide the fact that I’m Russian too. And I say this with pride: Ireland is my home now and it has been for a long time,” said Lobov, whose family moved to Dublin nearly 13 years ago.

The Lobov family spent Artem’s formative years in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia’s fifth largest city, before heading for Ireland via a three-year stint in Argentina. Lobov, who took up martial arts while studying for a BA in Business Studies and Spanish at DCU, now holds an Irish passport and is passionate about his dual nationality.

“I’ve said it before and I mean it — I’m not saying it because I think it sounds cool — I was born in Russia as a person but Ireland was where I was born as a fighter. This is God’s honest truth. I never fought or trained in any martial arts until I came to Ireland.

“I’ve been coached by Irish people, all my sparring partners are Irish and that’s how I became a fighter. I don’t care about what anybody thinks or says about that. I know who I am and what I am. I know what I owe to Ireland and I’ll always be thankful for that.”

As Conor McGregor’s main sparring partner, Lobov plans to be in his Straight Blast Gym team-mate’s corner tomorrow night at the MGM Grand for his featherweight title unification bout against Jose Aldo at UFC 194. But he’s got important business of his own to take care of first.

Having proven his worth on The Ultimate Fighter, Lobov’s place in the UFC may be secure nevertheless — irrespective of tonight’s result. However, he’ll need a win against Ryan Hall in order to absolutely guarantee that his UFC tenure lasts longer than one bout.

Lobov added: “Whether people want me to or not, I’ll represent Ireland on the big stage and I’ll work as hard as I can to make sure I do that with success. I’ll never forget how important Ireland has been for me.”

Artem Lobov’s fight against Ryan Hall will feature on the main card tonight at the TUF 22 Finale, which will be broadcast live on Setanta Ireland and BT Sport 2 from 1am.

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Paul Dollery

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