Alexander “The Storm” Shlemenko (51-9) is a former Bellator middleweight champion with a wealth of experience in combat sports. Fighting in M-1, Pankration and Bellator MMA, he has competed across the world in professional competition. He faces a veteran of equal expertise, Melvin Manhoef (29-12 MMA), in Bellator 133’s main event. Through the assistance of translator, we had the opportunity to ask the skilled striker about his extensive career, changes in his training regiment and what his gameplan is going up against one of the hardest hitters in the game.
Scifighting: With two recent submission losses, have you spent extra time in training focusing on your ground game heading into Bellator 133?
Shlemenko: Well guys I can say that of course I worked a lot on my ground game and wrestling, but the most important thing that I worked on is I changed my diet completely. I’m not sure if you’re aware of it but I was on a vegetarian diet prior to my fight with Brandon Halsey and I lost a lot of weight, strength, power and energy. But after my loss to Halsey I came back to my roots and started eating meat again and now I feel physically completely different. I am full of energy. As I said earlier, I’m working a lot on my ground game and wrestling but my next opponent Melvin Manhoef is a striker and I think it’s a great chance for me to try the old set of my skills including striking. My next opponent gives me a good opportunity to showcase all of my skills for that.
SF: Tell us more about the changes in your diet. How did it affect your fighting performance?
Shlemenko: After my last successful title defense against Brennan Ward, I decided to try a vegetarian diet. I stopped eating meat because I thought it would give me more energy and stamina by doing so. But it didn’t happen, on the contrary I started to lose my weight and before my last fight against Brandon Halsey my weight was 189 pounds. I just didn’t think I was strong enough so after that I changed my diet back and now I can say that I am back at my regular weight which is 205 for cutting weight. I feel strong, full of energy and I feel great.
SF: How do you feel overall about the direction of Bellator and your future in the promotion?
Shlemenko: First of all I would say I am very glad for this luxury opportunity. I’m very thankful for the fight Bellator gave me against Melvin Manhoef. I can say that it’s been difficult for me to make any predictions right now but I think after my fight with Melvin Manhoef I will be working with Bellator and moving in the same direction at Bellator to give me entertaining fights like with Melvin. I want to be able to compete at the highest level to be able to return my championship and be able to represent Bellator at the best of my abilities.
SF: You’ve had many fights in a seasoned career. How hard is it to find free time during your training? Do you ever think about scaling back the amount of fights you take or do you feel like you have a lot more energy now?
Shlemenko: You know what? It actually makes me happy to fight as often as possible and my family is always with me. Right now I have a training camp in Orange County and my family is with me here as well. They support me, they’re always nearby and you know what? I do not consume a drop of alcohol. I just train, I live healthy and I don’t go partying or anything so that leaves a lot of time that I can devote to my family and to the things I like to do for hobbies. So I can say that I am very happy man-that I am doing what I love. At the same time I have enough time to spend with my kids and family and so I don’t mind fighting often. I can say that the more often I fight, the better I feel.
SF: Are you spending more time in the states than overseas?
Shlemenko: No I spend much more time back in Russia because recently I opened my own academy in my home city of Omsk, so I spend most of the time over there. Here in the states, usually I come 2 or 3 weeks prior to my fight to acclimate and that’s about it. Most of my time I spend back at home.
SF: Assuming you win against Manhoef, who do you have in your sights to fight next?
Shlemenko: Yes of course. This man is Brandon Halsey. I don’t want anybody else to beat him up or defeat him prior to myself. After the fight with Melvin Manhoef, I want to fight Brandon Halsey and get my belt back.
See the action Friday night live from Fresno, CA’s Save Mart Center on Spike TV at 9/8C.