There's a tactical nature to some champions in mixed martial arts where a course is plotted, and everything has to fall perfectly in place to put a fight together.
For example, rarely will you see a champion take a fight on short notice or enjoy it much when an opponent has to drop out and a replacement steps in. At the level where championships are involved, it's sometimes becomes a complicated situation in regards to matchups and timing in order to get it all together.
In the UFC and Bellator, most champions only defend a title, on average, twice per year, and the same can be said for many organizations. More goes into preparing for a title fight, so the men and women holding the gold belts tend to compete a little less often than the contenders.
Whether he's a champion or not, Bellator middleweight king Alexander Shlemenko does not prescribe to the theory that just because he's ranked at the top of the division, he somehow receives special treatment. He's no fan of sitting out and waiting for contenders to climb up the mountain to him—he's happy to get down in the trenches and face anybody that stands in his way.
Shlemenko just wants to fight.
In 2010, Shlemenko fought a total of six times, and he followed that up with an encore in 2011, where he competed seven times. So it's easy to see why Shlemenko is a little disappointed that his fight this weekend against Brett Cooper will mark only his second trip to the cage in 2013.
Even if it means fighting a friend, a training partner, and somebody he's already beaten instead of Doug Marshall, who suffered an injury and was forced out of the bout, Shlemenko didn't care too much who was facing him this weekend—just as long as the fight still happened, he's a happy Russian.
"Well of course it would be more interesting for me to face Doug Marshall mainly because I have a good relationship Brett Cooper, we already fought and we train together," Shlemenko said. "But I'm very glad that this fight is actually happening, because lately I've been fighting very, very rarely and it bothers me a lot. The fact that I would still be able to fight even though Marshall got hurt makes me happy because I still get to fight."
Shlemenko fighting two times in 2013 is equal to most champions, so Bellator isn't necessarily doing anything wrong by not booking the Russian middleweight in more bouts. Shlemenko just loves to stay active, and this is his business.
Like any business, there's no money coming in if the doors are closed.
"I can say I'm a professional mixed martial arts fighter, and I make money when I fight," Shlemenko said. "It's extremely difficult for me to stay without a fight for a long period of time as it happened earlier. That's why I'm happy my fight was not canceled, Bellator replaced the opponent and the fight can still happen.
"I heard about these new rules that Bellator has about putting in different opponents just in case, and they can keep the champions active. That's very good and I’m happy it could work out and I can fight no matter what."
If it was up to Shlemenko, he'd still be fighting six or seven times a year/ However, as champion, that may not always be a realistic goal. So once he gets through Cooper this weekend, the Russian fighter is hoping Bellator can match him up with Marshall the moment he's recovered and can take the fight.
The middleweight division can't churn fast enough for Shlemenko, but he's hopeful that the matchmakers and executives at Bellator will continue to scout the planet for the best fighters in the world to bring him competition.
If they are willing to step up, Shlemenko is ready to fight them.
"I know Bellator matchmakers are constantly searching for new fighters, they are looking around the whole world to find the best possible fighters for the middleweight division," Shlemenko said. "The only thing that really matters is the ability for me to fight as much as possible."
Damon Martin is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and all quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
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