Earlier this year, Artem Lobov got what many would consider to be bad news: after compiling a 2-5 record in the Octagon, “The Russian Hammer” was handed his pink slip by UFC officials. But it was Lobov who asked for and was granted his release. Many believe that due to Lobov’s close friendship with his teammate at SBG Ireland, superstar Conor McGregor, he received a longer leash in the UFC than many fighters would have with a losing record.
The UFC matchmakers made the right call granting Lobov his release. After all, not only did he have a losing record inside the Octagon, but his overall MMA record is a below-.500 13-15-1, 1 NC. That was one of the worst records among all fighters on the UFC roster, and despite Lobov usually being in exciting stand-up fights, there was no way to justify keeping him on the roster. Lobov surely tried to connect with promotions like Bellator and ONE Championship, but no one was biting, at least for the type of pay he was looking for. Instead of taking another MMA fighter, Lobov went off the grid and decided to compete in another combat sport just like his buddy McGregor did when he went to boxing.
Instead of traditional boxing match, Lobov chose to take a bare-knuckle boxing bout for BKFC against another former UFC fighter in Jason Knight. Like Lobov, Knight had a losing record in the UFC and like Lobov, he prefers to stand and trade in his fights. So the matchup was perfect for both men, and BKFC decided it was a good enough matchup to headline the promotion’s fifth event. The fight took place this past weekend, a bloody war that Lobov won by unanimous decision. It was a fight that drew the praise of fellow fighters and the fans, and it showed that despite flaming out of the UFC and not being a very good MMA fighter, Lobov is a smart businessman and has proven he can remain relevant even without being a member of the UFC roster any longer.
With an impressive showing against Knight, Lobov has set himself up for another big fight under the BKFC banner. But he also has set himself up for other fights in other combat sports, including a dream fight against one of McGregor’s rivals, Paulie Malignaggi. This is a fight the ex-boxing world champion wants, and it’s a fight that Lobov wants. Despite Lobov having minimal experience as a pro boxer, especially at the level that Malignaggi fought his career at, it’s possible Lobov could weasel his way into a money fight against him just like McGregor did against Mayweather. Even if you don’t like Lobov or don’t believe he’s a good fighter, you have to respect and be impressed that he’s able to stay relevant in combat sports despite no longer being a member of the UFC roster.
When Lobov was granted his release by the UFC, he wanted to see where he could make the most money possible while still being an attraction. He could have chosen to give up his goals of competing and focused on a career as a coach because of the name he developed in MMA and his allegiance to McGregor. But you have to respect the fact he is a competitor and still wants to fight and compete in combat sports. Bare-knuckle fighting looks like a good fit for him, but traditional boxing could be good, as well. The fact that a fighter who flamed out of the UFC with a poor record in MMA is still relevant in the world of combat sports is impressive, and it says a lot about Lobov that he’s still having success in fighting even despite the fact he’s no longer in the UFC.