If your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough!
Global trends are changing at lightning speed. Back in the old days, things were different. Just a couple of years ago, we were all thrilled to follow the boxing world, knowing by heart such athletes as Roy Jones Jr., Kostya Tszyu, Vasiliy Lomachenko, Floyd Mayweather and others.
Nowadays, sports fans have new heroes who are fighting for the Championship title in the UFC League. MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) has seen increased popularity over the past ten years. Young guys strive to duplicate success of Conor McGregor, Khabib Nurmagomedov, and Justin Gaethje.
Slava Borshchev, an ambitious, but still modest Russian guy from Volgograd, is a hero of this interview. He moved to California following his wildest dreams: to crack the top-10 list of best UFC fighters in the world today. By the age of 28, Slava had already won the world championship title in kickboxing (K-1), had become a world-class athlete, and had repeatedly captured gold in both Russian and international competitions. Despite all these achievements, Slava was still not ready to rest, so bright-eyed and bushy-tailed athlete shared with us his reasons to move to the United States if it was all worth it and key insights he had gained in two years of living here.
Slava, was there a certain moment or event that made you realize you wanted to devote your whole life to boxing?
Yes, indeed. I first watched the movie “Ali” with Will Smith about Muhammad Ali when I was 9, and this masterpiece left a lasting impression. Just after watching this movie, I asked my dad to enroll me in boxing classes. And for over 20 years now, I haven’t been out of the ring.
Do you remember the moment you became a world champion in kickboxing? Did this victory drive you over the edge or was it what you expected?
Any victory is paid for in hard work, your dedication and determination. I remember spending hours training in the gym, reaching this title, dreaming of winning the world championship. It took me so long to get to this final stage, that I didn’t feel any euphoric haze about what had happened.
But I remember very well the day before the fight.
I was in a taxi with my coach. He’s a particularly close-mouthed person, so he has never given me any motivational speeches. But right then, in the car, he stared at me with those piercing eyes and said: “Slava, do you really get what title is at stake right now? Do you realize how important this fight is for your career? Give it all you’ve got!” These few phrases gave me, even more, winning drive and ambition. At that moment, I was mentally determined to defeat any adversary.
So how did you come up with the idea to move in the U.S. and choose Sacramento from all the cities?
My close friend is a big fan of Team Alfa Male. He insisted on telling me that I should join this team since many tough UFC fighters have stepped out of it. I decided to text a friend of mine I hadn’t seen in 10 years, knowing that he had immigrated to the United States a long time ago. In the past, we trained in the same gym in Volgograd. It turned out he moved from New York City to Walnut Creek. So out of all the options, it was fate that led me to Sacramento.
What was the first thing you did upon your arrival in California?
I’ll give you three guesses (laughs – editor’s note). I dreamed about looking at the ocean waves, so the first thing I did was to go to the ocean. That pure power, beauty and energy are simply incredible!
You’re absolutely right. Slava, what was your main goal upon arriving in Sacramento?
Back then I arrived for four months only, and I had no intention of staying here. But I really wanted to meet Urijah Faber, the founder of Urijah Faber Ultimate Fitness, and to have my first fight in the U.S. I attended all the training sessions daily, and one day I finally got a chance to meet Urijah. He put me through a sparring, and he really liked me. Since then, I’ve kept training under the close supervision of Urijah.
Is it enough to be just a good boxer to become a top UFC fighter? Or maybe there should be a whole range of factors contributing to this?
Surely, it’s not enough to be just a good fighter. The crucial thing is to have a skilled and competent manager. Without him, you won’t arrange a single fight. Besides, your skill in jiu-jitsu or freestyle wrestling also matters a lot.
You have nothing to do with the professional UFC unless you are skillful in fighting. Moreover, it’s your mindset that counts. The fight happens in your head first, and then inside the octagon.
In your opinion, what’s Conor McGregor’s secret? He has 36 million followers on Instagram, he made $50 million for his fight against Habib (Habib got only $2 million), even though he lost the fight. At the same time, Conor is extremely popular, and many people have started watching UFC because of him.
Conor is a unique combination of outrage, charm and excellent fighting skills. Just because he was defeated by Habib doesn’t mean he’s a bad fighter. When you reach the top, you find yourself among the fighters of such high caliber that anyone can lose. In fact, you should realize that the fight is just a tip of an iceberg. What’s important is to make a proper promotion campaign, find major sponsors, and do a really cool show. Like 2,000 years ago, people still want “bread and circuses”. So Conor managed to offer this to the public.
There is a notion that in boxing, as well as in football, there is such a thing as rigged matches. Did you face such situations, and what do you think about it?
To be honest, I don’t understand and don’t accept such kind of deals, that I want to believe there are no such fights. However, in the history of boxing, there were certain moments when many factors pointed out the existence of a prior agreement between the parties on the fight outcome. But I’m not 100% sure that this is actually happening.
After almost two years of living in California, can you tell us what do you like here and what do you want to change?
I really like the infrastructure here. Things are well arranged and located within the city limits. Obviously, I really enjoy the nature here and a huge selection of places to go with the whole family. Besides, I’d like to say a couple of words about the roads. Since I’m originally from Volgograd, the roads in California seem like heaven, even though I’ve heard they’re not the best in the U.S.
This is a challenging time, not only for the United States but also for the whole world. How has the 2020 and the coronavirus pandemic affected you?
You know, this year is really unpredictable. As I said before, my goal here was to have at least 5 fights, so that I could be noticed and continue on my way in the UFC league. After over a dozen rejections in the meantime, I finally got an agreement for a fight. But the coronavirus has disrupted all plans, so the fight has been postponed for an indefinite period. This situation really put me off my stride. I hope that everything will come back to normal and I’ll successfully proceed towards my goal.
Let’s imagine for just one second that you won’t succeed, will you lose your life purpose?
I do have a family! My lovely wife and daughter. They’re my mainstay, my backbone and my protection. So whatever the result, I’ll keep my spirits up.
HOT SEAT QUESTIONS:
The biggest mistake:
Think that it’s your last mistake
What’s the bravest thing you have ever done?
Becoming a father
What is the quality you value most in people?
Who of the great athletes would you like to train with?
The answer is obvious: Muhammad Ali
The most precious thing left in Russia?
Without what, there’s no happiness?
Without a family
The most extraordinary family story?
By the will of fate, my grandparents ended up in the U.S. 50 years ago. My grandma was in New Jersey in 1969 on an international student exchange program. While my grandpa was a sailor on the Jurist ship, he was rescued by the Americans upon the shipwreck near Portland in 1972. He and his crew stayed in the U.S. for about a month, He and his team stayed in the U.S. for about a month, and this period turned out to be one of his most vivid recollections of youth.