Just shy of a year since he lost his world title, former ONE Middleweight World Champion Vitaly Bigdash is ready for another run at the gold.
Bigdash takes on former title challenger Leandro Ataides at ONE: GRIT AND GLORY on 12 May in Jakarta, Indonesia, and the Russian says he knows he’s facing a serious challenge in the form of the powerful Brazilian.
“This guy is very good, there is no doubt about it,” he told ONE Championship.
“I understand he might want to take the fight to the ground, but my intention is not to let him do it. I have to prepare myself for any scenario.”
Bigdash was due to face five-time BJJ world champion Ataides at ONE: KINGS OF COURAGE in Jakarta earlier this year, but a staph infection forced the former world champion off the card, prompting ONE officials to rebook the bout for the same city in May.
Bigdash said the whole build-up to their originally-scheduled matchup was fraught with issues, and eventually fell through due to his infection picked up in the lead-up to the contest.
“That fight camp was a nightmare,” he said.
“There were many problems in different areas of my life, and I did not feel at my best. But a job is a job, and I kept pushing through. I had my mind set on this fight.”
Despite ploughing through his training sessions, it became clear all was not well with Bigdash’s health, and it was eventually discovered that the Russian had contracted a staph infection.
“My team and I were ready to go, but literally, just several days before we had to board that plane to Jakarta, my temperature shot up,” he explained.
“Then a small blister appeared on my knee. In just a day, it became enormous. My knee was swollen, and throbbing with pain.
“Sometimes, fighters carry on with the job even when they are infected, but it was not going to happen in this case. The doctor had to open the wound on my knee. I already had an abscess, and the only way to treat it was to cut it open and drain it. It was a painful process.”
After completing a full training camp, having to pull out of the contest on such late notice was tough on both Bigdash and Ataides, but he was left with little option. He made his decision and apologised to his opponent.
“I apologised to Leandro about having to withdraw. I understand that he is a family man, too, and has to put food on the table for his loved ones,” Bigdash said.
“There is no beef. I actually respect this guy, and his reaction was very cool. All I can hope for now is that we both come to this fight well prepared, and give fans a good show.”
The events of that cancelled bout have left Bigdash particularly wary, and he’s taken extra measures to try to ensure the same situation doesn’t repeat itself in this, or future training camps.
He now travels with his own anti-bacterial medication, and goes through a cleaning regimen before and after training sessions to minimise the chance of picking up another infection in camp.
“I have a complicated routine now,” he explained.
“I am cleaning my skin thoroughly, and I put antiseptic on every small cut immediately. Maybe I am a bit paranoid now.”
Bigdash is back to 100 percent fitness, he is determined to ensure he gets past fellow contender Ataides, and position himself for a world title rematch with the man who took the belt from him last year, Myanmar’s two-division world champion Aung La N Sang.
“I know his (Ataides’) weak and strong points, and I do have a game plan to address both,” he stated.
“But I am going to keep my cards close to the chest. I can only say that my goal is to win, and I will use my plan to do so.”
Victory may well see Bigdash positioned as the number-one contender, and a trilogy match with Aung La N Sang. But before he can entertain the idea of facing his old adversary for a third time, he knows he has to stay fully focused on the job at hand, and secure victory over the dangerous Ataides.
“Of course, I want to get the belt back,” he said.
“Now my goal is to eliminate Leandro, and after this victory I can think in detail about how I am going to get to where I want to be next.”