There was a time in Blagoy Ivanov's life where the future wasn't so certain. In 2012, the current World Series of Fighting heavyweight champion was laid up in a hospital bed after being stabbed in his native Bulgaria.
Things seemed dim for a bit for Ivanov, but he never stopped fighting -- because he wanted to get back to that other kind of fighting: mixed martial arts.
"The whole time when I was in the hospital, I thought about my comeback," Ivanov told MMA Fighting. "All the time I wanted to fight. I didn't want to stop fighting."
Ivanov never wavered and miraculously he recovered. Perhaps even more impressive is that he has returned to MMA competition at a high level. Ivanov won the WSOF heavyweight title last year and Friday he'll attempt to make his second successful attempt against former UFC big man Josh Copeland at WSOF 31 at Foxwoods in Connecticut.
"It's a big fight," Ivanov said. "It's very important to me, because I have to defend my belt. Copeland is a tough guy. I've prepared for this fight for 2 ½ months."
Ivanov (13-1, 1 NC) trained for Copeland at American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose and Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas. The sambo specialist believes he is in top form for the bout.
Ivanov, 29, has gone 6-1 since coming back from being stabbed, defeating foes in both Bellator and WSOF. After Copeland, there is just one more fight on his contract. Though he said he enjoys fighting for World Series, Ivanov also has a goal to compete on the biggest stage and that could mean a future in the UFC.
"I want to beat the best to be the best," Ivanov said.
If Ivanov can get by Copeland, there is one more big name on his list currently under WSOF contract: former UFC knockout artist Shawn Jordan. The athletic former LSU fullback was a recent signee. Jordan was once ranked in the UFC's heavyweight top 15 and is a tough customer for any opponent.
"I think it will be a good fight for me," Ivanov said. ... "I need to face Copeland first and then I'll think about Jordan."
Of course. Ivanov cannot look past Copeland. But he's allowed to think about the future. It's what helped him stay strong in the hospital four years ago and make a triumphant return to athletics, something he has been doing since he was a sambo competitor at 10 years old.
"I never stopped training and working," Ivanov said. "I'm tough, ya know?"