EL SEGUNDO, CA—It's round two for Vladimir Matyushenko (24-4) in the UFC. The Belarusian is making his second run through the Ultimate Fighting Championship and shooting for the top of the light heavyweight mountain.
"The Janitor" had his first tenure from 2001 to 2003, where he went 4-2. Those two losses were at the hands of some of that era's top fighters in Tito Ortiz and Andrei Arlovski.
Fast-forward seven years. Vlady is still training, still grinding, and not stepping back on the level of competition. Matyushenko is scheduled to take on what many call, "the next big thing" in Jon "Bones" Jones (10-1) at UFC on Versus 2 this Sunday in San Diego.
Vladimir comes into this fight knowing that his pending opponent has been on a path of destruction, but he appears up to one of the biggest tests given to him by the UFC.
"I think they tested me, gave me decent opponents," Matyushenko told Bleacher Report MMA. "But now, it's a pretty tough fight. Now, it's the ultimate test."
The true test of any man is standing up to adversity when the cards are stacked against you, but you face it with all the tenacity and strength you can find within your core. For Matyushenko, he faces that adversity this weekend.
Regardless of how the odds are in favor his opponent, Vladimir comes off thinking positively when answering questions about what a potential win can do for him. An addition to his win column at UFC on Versus 2 could be a golden ticket to being in the mix for a shot at light heavyweight hardware.
"This win is going to bring me up, and same thing for Jones," said Matyushenko. "I think if he beats me, it's going to bring him to the championship. For both of us, it's a very important fight."
Before coming back to the UFC, Vladimir Matyushenko spent some time in some smaller MMA organizations, like the now defunct IFL. He also grabbed a couple bouts in the Affliction promotion before its collapse.
Ultimately, Matyushenko returned to the UFC with the intention of making big waves in the 205-pound division. Times are different now. The sport has evolved. The organization has developed by leaps and bounds, and according to "the Janitor," even the sketchy reporters have reduced the amount of garbage they've put out.
"If you compare those two, I think I'm happier this time," Matyushenko exclaimed when comparing his two runs in the UFC. "I think there is more stability in [the] UFC, and...media does a much better job."
Thankfully, Vladimir welcomed questions from this media outlet and reflected on his past interviews.
"No more questions like, 'What's your style, dude?'" said Vladimir while enjoying a laugh. "Everyone knows each other's style. And also, public perspective. It's totally different right now. Fans are more educated."
As far as his next opponent is concerned, Matyushenko knows exactly what he's getting into against Jon Jones. The punishing style and athleticism of the 23-year-old are all factors that the veteran fighter is aware of.
"He's young, athletic, talented, pretty dangerous," Matyushenko explained. "All those things. No losses, so far. I don't count that loss as a loss."
Sure, Vladimir respects his opponent. And why not? Jones has nearly obliterated everyone he's fought. His unique style is difficult to counter because of its unpredictability.
"He's very unpredictable, and he knows it," said Matyushenko. "And he'll try to come up with something new. It's not hard for him."
The UFC veteran also feels that his opponent can't foresee what will happen.
"He...doesn't know what he's gonna do," claimed Vladimir.
When this fight was first announced, MMA uproar ensued from the fanbase and some of the media. Many thought, and still think, this fight will be one-sided and an easy walk in the park for Mr. Jones.
Despite his quality 24-4 record, the majority of people feel that Matyushenko will meet his doom in San Diego. Those shouting that opinion call this a step back for an up-and-comer in Jones.
"Well, I don't think so. I don't think it's a step back. I think I'm a pretty fair, dangerous opponent for him," Matyushenko commented when asked of what he thought of the majority's opinion. "Honestly, I don't really care about people's opinions."
Opinions aside, Vladimir appears to be on a mission to serve up something that Jones has never felt in his young MMA career.
"Jones hasn't been hit that hard or put in danger, so far. And then, when you get leg kicked or punched in the face, a lot of people change their strategy," explained Matyushenko. "Hopefully, it's gonna affect him some way."
Will Jones be affected by Vlady's experience and MMA IQ?
Will the young lion in Jones devour the veteran in Matyushenko?
Only time will tell. The real question will be if "The Janitor" will mop the floor with Jon Jones. In the spirit of selling a fight, the humble Belarusian says, "Most likely."
UFC on Versus 2 takes place on Sunday, Aug. 1 at the San Diego Sports Arena in San Diego, CA.
Follow Vladimir Matyushenko on Twitter at http://twitter.com/vladthejanitor
Follow Erik Fontanez on Twitter at @ErikFontanez
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