Artem Lobov will always be grateful for the name he built fighting in the UFC but he’s now making enough money outside the Octagon that he never has to stress about going back.
It was less than a year ago that the 33-year-old Russian-Irish slugger was released from the world’s biggest mixed martial arts promotion after suffering three straight losses. Rather than sit around feeling defeated, Lobov picked himself up and began exploring new options in the combat sports world that didn’t necessarily involved mixed martial arts.
That’s when he signed with Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship and got involved in two of the most talked about fights of the year including his win over former boxing champion Paulie Malignaggi.
Now as he prepares for a rematch against fellow UFC veteran Jason Knight this weekend, Lobov is in the position where he finally knows his worth and that’s a liberating feeling considering many fighters are often living paycheck to paycheck.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m very thankful for UFC. The reason why I’m getting all these offers is in large part because I was a UFC fighter and that’s where I made my name,” Lobov explained when speaking to MMA Fighting. “Having said that, of course everybody wants to be champion, yes that’s good to be in the UFC but the thing is we all have families, we all have mouths to feed and we all need to provide. I’m able to do it a lot better outside the UFC than when I was in the UFC.
“I watch the pay disclosures after every card in the UFC and normally there’s one guy on the card who gets paid more than me. If there’s a big, huge card maybe there’s three or four. So I get paid more than 90 or 95 percent of the UFC fighters so I’m happy I’m in the position that I’m in.”
When he was fighting in the UFC, Lobov did compete in one main event but outside of that lone contest, he was typically competing on the midcard or undercard where the majority of athletes aren’t making the highest sums of money in the company.
At BKFC, Lobov is a marquee headliner and he’s now receiving the kinds of financial offers that take away the burden of needing to fight just to pay the bills.
“When you don’t have to worry about the financial side, you can truly concentrate on the craft,” Lobov said. “You can truly concentrate on the fights you really want to have.
“You have that freedom and it’s extremely important especially when you have a family and you have to provide.”
His fight this weekend against Knight is actually the last bout on his current deal with BKFC, although Lobov says the promotion has already made overtures to keep him on the roster moving forward.
What Lobov loves more than anything right now is knowing he has options that could keep him fighting in bare-knuckle boxing matches, potentially crossing over into boxing or a return to MMA where he believes his payday would far exceed what he made in his final fight with the UFC.
“At the end of the day, this is a business and I want to see what else is out there in the market,” Lobov said. “This is going to be the last fight on my contract. [BKFC president] David Feldman already offered me a two-fight extension. So we will see how it goes but with me, if the opponent is not the most interesting for me, the money side has to be more interesting.
“We can always come to an agreement. I always make sure that I’m good to do business with. I always show up. I always make weight. I never pull out of the fights. I just make it enjoyable to do business with me.”
Following his win over Malignaggi back in June, Lobov quickly moved to try and book the rematch in boxing rather than bare-knuckle. According to Lobov, a few talks occurred to try and secure a spot on the recent card between Logan Paul and KSI where the two YouTube personalities clashed in the main event.
The fight never came together but Lobov says he’s still interested in making the Malignaggi rematch happen in the future so long as the promoter putting on the fight is willing to pay.
“I think me and Paulie boxing, that’s a fight in and of itself. That could be a main event on the card. It could sell pay-per-views,” Lobov said. “With the gloves on he could have more of a chance there but I feel I’ve been making good progress and that would make a good fight. So maybe we could do that next year.
“I will never get sick of whooping that guy’s ass. I’m happy to do that over and over and over again. People in the world seem to enjoy that also. Why not? I’m all for it. If an offer comes in, it will be a yes from me.”
Before he can get to Malignaggi or any other potential payday, Lobov first has to get through his rematch with Knight this weekend.
The first fight was a back-and-forth battle over three rounds but Lobov is looking to put an exclamation point on the rematch by finishing Knight this time around.
“To me, I think this time I really want to make it clear. I want to stop him,” Lobov said. “I feel I can. I dropped him a few times in that fight. I feel I was maybe a little too reckless and I blew my load a bit too soon. That was also my first bare-knuckle fight. I didn’t really know what to expect.
“But I think this time if I approach it a little bit more methodically, a little bit more technically, I can put this guy away. Then that will be clear. There will be no more questions.”