Russian Time Magazine

Slava Borshchev: “My UFC Contract Is Just The Beginning”

Getting into the most famous promotion company is the goal of every MMA fighter. 29-year-old Vyacheslav Borshchev was able to do this by knocking out his opponent Chris Duncan at the Dana White’s Contender Series tournament. We ’ve talked with the athlete to understand what a guy from Russia’s far-flung provinces needs to do to get into the sports elite of America, how his family supports him, and when he wanted to give up.
“The goal must be unrealistic”
Slava, you’ve finally signed your UFC contract! This is a tremendous achievement for a boxer. What does this contract mean for you: the start of a new round in your career or achievement, after which you can exhale, calm down a bit, and even relax because your goal has been achieved?
I have an impression as if I finished the chapter, turned the page, and now everything is new again. It was a long and difficult journey. I was expecting this every day. Every day I was approaching this and every hour of training I was striving for this. And, oddly enough, it happened very unexpectedly, out of a sudden. It often turns out this way when you invest a lot in something per aspera ad astra, then everything happens suddenly, and you even feel a bit devastated. But the good news is that the goal to get to the UFC was achieved and, of course, this is not the end. It’s just the beginning.
So all your victories at the championships of Russia, Europe, and the world are just steps towards the beginning of a big career in sports?
I divide all my steps into ‘before’ and ‘after’. Once I dreamed of becoming the world champion and couldn’t sleep properly because of that. Then I became the world champion and… nothing happened. I realized that I needed to strive for something else. And it goes so every time – you reach the desired goal and start all over again trying to achieve a new goal. It seems to me that it is much easier to achieve something in this life by setting some big goals for yourself. At the same time, in general, dreams should be off the scale. If you have a dream that you can’t die for, it’s not a dream at all. I believe that you have to always stay here in reality but set the most unrealistic goals. Only then you won’t stop at one achieved result.
There is a myth that it is easier for Russian athletes to be signed by foreign promotion companies, such as the UFC since our guys zealously strive for victory and are more motivated to get into the top league. They even wrote about you: “Well, of course, he got a contract, he is Russian after all”. Have you noticed this pattern?
No. In America, we are not divided by nationality. They don’t care about it. This is just business. But, on the contrary, the fact that I am Russian could have got in my way since Russian athletes are very strong, there are a lot of them, and the competition is high. And another Russian may not be needed at all. Moreover, if I didn ’t know English and couldn’t bring new fans with me, they wouldn ’t need me at all. To be honest, my skills may not be too important as well. Them ore important fact is how many people’s interest in my fights I can spark. The more people watch my fights, the better.

It’s wrong to think that some factors have helped me. Maybe it’s my manager Urijah Faber. But he is my manager not because I am Russian, but because I am a professional athlete who works hard. In a matter of four years, I became a full-fledged MMA fighter and am fighting in the most prestigious organization in the world. I had very competitive opponents who can easily sign a contract with the UFC.

And if we talk about the Dana White’s Contender Series, after which I signed my UFC contract, I can say I was an outsider there. I got into a fight with the Scotch man Chris Duncan by accident. The fact is that his opponent didn’t qualify for that because of his weight. And, in general, no one wanted to fight him. At that time Chris had seven early victories out of seven fights.

There were 10 days left before the fight with him, too little time to get ready. When Urijah offered me to replace Duncan’s opponent, I immediately agreed not even asking the opponent ’s name. So you can’t be on to me in this regard. That’s what I’m here for – to fight if challenged.

By the way, I’m sure that someone may think that you were lucky to win that fight and sign a contract because of this accident. If Duncan’s opponent hadn’t dropped out, perhaps there wouldn’t have been any contract. But in fact, you were moving towards this contract persistently.

We can reassure everyone: I was definitely lucky. I was lucky to be Slava Borshchev. I was lucky not to give up and fight for 21 years. I’ve been really lucky many times in my life. But there is an expression: “Lucky is the one who is lucky”. It means there are no miracles. To achieve some results, you need to work really hard. But the most offensive thing is that this doesn’t mean you will succeed even if you work hard. But if you don’t work hard, you will definitely fail.
“If you work, there has to be a result”
Slava, let’s get back to basics. Why did you choose such a traumatic and dangerous sport as your profession?
I engaged myself in martial arts a long time ago, and, to be honest, I can’t imagine my life outside of sports. I have been fighting since the age of 8. Initially, my choice of martial arts was influenced by movies. I saw the movie “Ali” where Will Smith starred and realized that I wanted to become the world champion. The second factor was the environment of my childhood. There was a lot of violence on the streets during that period. The main argument was strength. And, probably, such an atmosphere around me encouraged me to go in for sports.

The third factor was getting into the sports elite in 2006 when I won the Russian championship among teenagers. Then I realized that if you invested a lot of effort, you could get a result. From that moment on, I dedicated my life to sports. And I decided that I would achieve my goals no matter what. Was there a moment when you wanted to give up and just leave? No matter how much a person wants to reach his or her goal, he or she can still experience burnout, fatigue, and things like that.

Certainly, sometimes there were very difficult moments. I always try to find mistakes in myself if something happens. But if I start shifting responsibility onto fate or someone else, I’m on the verge then. And these are the nastiest and most disgusting moments that I would like to get out of my head and life. I remember one very difficult situation. I took third place in three Russian championships in a row. I tried very hard and trained hard, but nothing worked. And I started blaming everyone around for this. I thought: “If you work, there must be a result. Why don’t I get it?” But suddenly I got lucky. The fact is that only two people from the junior national team can go to the European Championship – those who took the first and second places. I was the third. And out of a sudden, the second one couldn’t go, and they took me instead. And I won this European Championship, and I was the first one from my country to win first place. And from that moment on, I was motivated to train hard.
If an athlete who has recently been defeated once or several times is reading us now and thinking whether it is worth continuing his sports career, what would you tell him?
I will only say two things. First, if you are wondering whether to continue or not, you have already failed. There is no need for advice. One of the characteristics of an ambitious person is to move towards your goal even if everyone around you says that you won’t succeed. Second, there is an expression: “The biggest temptation to give up is shortly before the triumph”. This is exactly what had happened to me, even before the fight with Chris. But Urijah told me: “No, we are going anyway”. And I did it instead of feeling sorry for myself.

Slava, now you live in Sacramento, USA.
Is it impossible for an athlete to build a powerful career living in Russia and just coming to fight in Europe or America?
A person can do anything. But we understand that the UFC is the most prestigious organization for fighters. Yes, you can try from Russia too, but I didn’t have a cool sponsor or manager to take care of my career and represent me in America. I had only one choice – to move to the place this organization was from. Certainly, now Sacramento is my second home, and I love the people who surround me here. But initially, I came here mainly because of the UFC. All major tournaments and managers are here. But you need to understand that this is not just some move. It means applying every effort to learn the language, begin to understand people here, and so on.
By the way, you train not on your own, but in the Ultimate Fitness sports club owned by the famous MMA fighter, creator, and leader of the Team Alpha Male fighting team, Urijah Faber. Why this club? And is training in the States different from the one you had in Russia?
Let’s start with the fact that in Russia, I didn’t fight,but was a kickboxer. I didn’t understand anything in MMA. A friend of mine recommended that I go to Team Alpha Male, a young developing team of Urijah Faber. There were mostly fighters, and this was what I needed. As a result, the team met my expectations. Here is a great level of fight. Perhaps, it’s the best in the world. That’s why I stayed in Sacramento.
“My wife and I became a team”
From the sidelines, it seems that boxers are very aggressive people. Otherwise, how can they beat other people so zealously? But after talking with you, I realized that this isn’t so. When at work, you turn on aggression which then doesn’t fall upon other areas of your life, is that right?
I’ll tell you more: in martial arts at a high level, it’s impossible not to be crazy. But at the same time, the higher the level of the athlete, the lower his level of aggression. He simply doesn’t see the danger around him.

Where does this aggression come from? Mostly, it’s fear. I am a hot-tempered person. I can get angry in a second, but usually, I just laugh it off and then laugh at myself. But I never cross the line. Real aggression is born only when there is fear. And even if you see how a high-level athlete beats someone badly, this is not about aggression. This is more about harshness and cruelty. It is impossible to be an affectionate guy if you want to defeat your opponent. You are trying to hurt a person to win. But these are the rules, not because someone is aggressive.
Slava, you have repeatedly said that you train a lot, 24/7, but at the same time, judging by your life, you manage to devote time to your family. How do you find both time for your family and time for hard training?
I really love my family, and for me, spending time with them is a pleasure. The only thing is that I get very tired. Sometimes it can be very difficult to do something. For example, my wife doesn’t drive yet, which means that the driver’s burden falls on me. But I try to be calm about it: if need to do something, I will do it. I think that the main thing is just to love your family. Then there will be time.

For example, it hurts me a lot now that I spend less time with my daughter. Now she has started studying music and goes in for gymnastics. And to pay her for her classes, I need to work harder. And then, of course, I don’t have enough power to play with her and have fun in full.
By the way, when you fight, does your wife support or is she more worried about what may happen to you in the ring?
My wife is very rational in this regard. She understands everything, and she didn’t know another me. I’ve been doing this all my life. Sometimes I’m even interested in looking at myself with her eye: she knew me as unordinary guy from the Krasnoarmeysky district who could fight on the street. And now that guy has turned first into a champion, then into a father. I think she does hard math. She knows why I’m doing this.

Moreover, I don’t hide anything from her and share everything with her. And now, even when I gave up mentally before my fight with Chris, she told me: “Since we’ve come here, finish your job, and then we’ll figure it all out.” And I really liked it. I have never noticed such volitional powers in her. We are a team now, and this is very cool!