View Full Version : Sergei Kharitonov Will Break Tournament Foes

01-27-2011, 11:26 PM

Just a few weeks ahead of his opening round bout in the upcoming Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix, Sergei Kharitonov spoke with Tapology to detail what he has planned for his opponents and to voice his thoughts on the UFC.

Kharitonov participated in the 2010 K-1 Grand Prix, but he has been relatively inactive in MMA over the last few years, competing in the sport just once each year from 2008-10. The Russian heavyweight cited a shoulder injury, which occurred in a fight against Alistair Overeem, as his reason for focusing on his kickboxing career. He said it gives him less pain to compete in kickboxing than in MMA. Recently, however, Kharitonov said his shoulder is “100% better,” and he is “ready to fight MMA again.”

The timing of Kharitonov’s recovery could not be better, as he will be one of eight world-class heavyweight fighters participating in the upcoming Strikeforce tournament. In the minds of many pundits, fans, and fighters, the winner of the tournament will have a legitimate claim to being the best heavyweight fighter in the sport.

Asked for his assessment of his chances in the tournament, Kharitonov was characteristically brazen.

“Anything can happen in a fight, but I am very well prepared. I feel the best in years,” Kharitonov said. “[I] trained my stand-up and ground and [have] no injuries; I am ready to break some bones.”

Kharitonov after a grueling sparring session | Source: Golden Glory
In addition to Kharitonov and Andrei Arlovski, other big-name heavyweights such as Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion Overeem and former Pride Heavyweight Champion Fedor Emelianenko will compete. While Overeem is a teammate of Kharitonov’s out of the Golden Glory Gym, the two have fought twice before and have no qualms about doing so again.

“I train with Alistair and we are 1-1,” Kharitonov said. “We could meet in the finals and again we will have a brawl. Its not really that much different [than] how we train and do sparring in the gym.”

To most, Kharitonov is a heavy underdog to come out on top of such a stacked tournament field. Unfortunately for his opponents, he refuses to subscribe to the talk.

“People like to think they are experts on things they think they know,” Kharitonov said. “I beat Alistair and [Fabricio] Werdrum and [did] that at a time when my stand-up skills were not 25% [of] what [they are] now. You do the math.”

Regardless of how he feels he would perform against the top names in the tournament, Kharitonov will first have to get past a desperate Arlovski, who is in the midst of the worst slump of his professional career. The Belarusian has not won a fight since October of 2008.

“I do not watch fights from Andrei Arlovski,” Kharitonov said. “For me he is just another obstacle that has to be removed. I do not care what his problems were or if he was a champion or not. I will break him.”

Kharitonov greets Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker | Source: Golden Glory
Finally, Kharitonov was asked what he thought about comparisons between Strikeforce’s current heavyweight roster and that of the UFC. The experienced veteran pulled no punches in his analysis.

“Why compare?” Kharitonov asked. “Professional fighters go were the money is. I would fight [Shane] Carwin or [Cain] Valasquez no problem, but the UFC does not allow fighters to fight outside of their organization. If we look at the past we saw Randy Couture losing to Valentijn [Overeem] in Rings and Chuck Liddell [lost] in Pride. I think it shocked the UFC and they do not want anymore of that.

“I know I can beat all these guys, but I think Strikeforce right now has the best heavyweights. They always say you have to fight in the UFC, but why do UFC guys not prove they are the best to fight outside the UFC?”

It seems that the heavyweight division is one that will continue to be debated in terms of its true champion for years to come. The top fighters in the UFC and Strikeforce continue to go back and forth on where the best heavyweights reside. At the end of the day, however, the fans get to watch them try to prove it.

The Strikeforce tournament, which kicks off on Saturday, February 12 on Showtime, may go a long way toward settling the debate once and for all–or not. Irrespective of the outcome, fighters like Kharitonov should guarantee that it will at least be fun to watch.