When you sit down to write an article about someone nicknamed “The Janitor” — well, let’s just say you don’t have any trouble thinking up lame puns. Can’t you just see them now?
“The Janitor” Ready To Mop The Floor With his UFC competition! “The Janitor” To Take Out the Trash in the Light Heavyweight Division! “The Janitor” Set To Remove The Crusty Old Gum From Underneath The Plastic Chair…That’s Holding Up Jason Brilz’s Career!
Har har. And don’t think Valdimir Matyushenko hasn’t heard them all at this point. Yet if “The Janitor” has his way, 2011 will be the year he goes from being “the guy with the funny nickname” to “the guy who could challenge for the UFC title”.
“I’ve been around this sport for awhile, longer then most people think. I’ve done a lot of things, but I still haven’t won that UFC title. I’d like to do that before it’s all said and done. I think I have it in me. I’ve gotten older, but I haven’t gotten slower. And all my experience just complements my overall game.”
Speaking from his VMAT Training Center in El Segundo, California, Matyushenko sounds calm and relaxed as always, a sort of mellow, Belarusian Bas Rutten. And when he talks about “being in the spirt for awhile” and having “experience," he’s not joking.
Matyushenko made his MMA debut when Bill Clinton was still president and “Tweeting” was what birds did to communicate. In a creaky stadium in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, he strapped on the 5 oz. gloves for the first of what is today 30 total career fights. During that time, he has gone 25-5, won the IFL Light-Heavyweight championship, and has been ranked top-10 in the world.
Before he ventured into MMA, he was a 2 time collegiate wrestling champion and successful international freestyle wrestler. He was given his “Janitor” nickname by U.S wrestling legend Dave Schultz because he cleaned the mats with the overmatched Yank competition once during an international meet.
Yeah, he’s been around.
“I’m not getting and younger,” Matyushenko says with a laugh “but I am getting smarter. MMA is a different kind of sport. It’s not boxing, it’s not wrestling, it’s not Jiu-Jitsu. More then anything it’s a thinking man’s game; anything can happen at any time.”
“The guys I train with everyday, guys like Fabricio [Werdum], or [Antoni] Hardonk, everyday it’s like we’re training for something different, something new. We make up moves ourselves just to invent ways to block them and defend them.”
Since returning to the UFC in September of 2009, “The Janitor” has a gone a respectable 3-1. Unfortunately, his one loss was also his highest profile bout to date — a one side mauling at the hands of now champion Jon Jones. That loss aside, and Matyushenko has mostly flown under the radar. He’s hoping that’s about to change.
On April 30, he faces off with Jason Brilz. On the main card of a stacked PPV card. In front of a record-breaking 55,000 fans at Toronto’s Roger’s Centre. It’s only the biggest UFC event in the company’s history.
Pressure’s on. For Matyushenko, the time has come to make a statement.
“I’m so excited to be on this card, the biggest [UFC] in history. It’s an honor to even be asked to participate. I’m not just excited for myself, I’m excited for MMA in general. This event is a victory for fighters, for the [MMA] media, and for the fans. We all did this together, we all made it happen. I can‘t wait to go out there and put on a good show.”
“As far as [Brilz] goes, this fight is actually a continuation of my training. I was supposed to fight him [at UFC 122] in Germany, but he got injured and had to drop out. So I’ve been preparing for this fight for almost 6 months now. It’s tough to be any more ready then that.”
Matyushenko is ready to make a statement with more then just his fists, however. Always a Twitter favorite among hardcore fans, Valdimir has been reaching out through the social networking site to promote a viral video contest based on — you guessed it — his “Janitor” nickname.
“Basically, people have been sending me ’Janitor Tips’ over Twitter,” Matyushenko explains “so I started a contest. The top-10 funniest ’Janitor Tips’ gets a prize, and I’ll read the funniest lines in a video on YouTube.”
It may seem a touch cheeky for the normally stoic Belarusian wrestler to laugh at himself thus, but here’s the thing many don’t know about Matyushenko: he’s actually pretty funny. Surely it takes a sense of humor to embrace a name like “The Janitor” so rabidly.
“To me, this contest is just about the laughs. I’m just doing it to interact with fans, to laugh and to give away some cool prizes.”
At UFC 129, “The Janitor” is fighting for something more then just a win at the biggest UFC event ever. He and opponent Jason Brilz have something in common: a loss to Rogerio Nogueira, AKA “Little Nog”. That’s a fight Matyushenko would really like have back — and he’s got the perfect place in mind for the rematch.
“I want to rematch Nogueira in Brazil. I want to fight him in his hometown.” Matyushenko declares with confidence. “I think the first UFC event in Brazil is going to be a big deal, and I think it’s a perfect place to do this fight.”
“Of course I want that rematch and it’s a fight I think I can win, but to do it in Brazil, in that atmosphere. That would be perfect. That’s the fight I want next.”
For now though, Matyushenko is focused only on his fight with Brilz. He’s focused on entertaining those soon to be 55,000 screaming fans in Toronto, and on making more fans. He’s focused on making also his “statement” in the sport of MMA before he finally has to call it career.
“I don’t plan on stopping. MMA is growing so fast right now, there’s so many opportunities. I feel healthy, I feel strong, and I’m going to keep chasing my dreams until…”he pauses on that last part, considering his response.
“Well, until I don’t feel like it anymore, basically. That’s when I’ll stop. When I don’t feel like doing this anymore. I just don’t see it happening anytime soon.”
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!