UFC veteran Artem Lobov may have never been the best in the world, but he always showed up to put on a fight, whether he was winning or losing.
Despite setbacks over the years, Lobov still saw massive potential in himself, especially when it came to chasing the kinds of dreams that he felt would validate his place in combat sports history. But that all changed after falling short in what would ultimately become the final fight of his career.
“Every other time, even when I lost, I was always working towards a certain goal,” Lobov explained on The MMA Hour. “There was a big, big goal, a big target in front of me. The last one for me was getting into the boxing and getting a seven-figure payday. I felt like a fight against [Denys] Berinchyk was going to do that for me. He was an Olympic silver medalist, undefeated in boxing, WBO international champion and all this. I felt if I beat this guy in bare-knuckle well this is it. This is going to be my ticket to that boxing fight, to that seven-figure boxing fight.
“When this didn’t happen, I failed, I was like I know I can continue fighting, but it’s going to be fighting just to get some money, just to get by. There was no more big goal I was going to be able to achieve anymore.”
Lobov fell to Berinchyk in a bare-knuckle fight in the Ukraine, which marked his second straight defeat in that sport after previously losing by TKO to Jason Knight in the BKFC.
After the Berinchyk loss, Lobov was forced to reassess his place in the sport and whether he should continue to compete without the same kind of goals that had driven him throughout his career.
“The thing for me is this was a very big decision for me,” Lobov said. “I feel like I’m not going to be one of those guys that comes back in and out of it. It was a decision that I thought about for a long time. It was a difficult decision for me to make. I actually love fighting. I love this sport. I love this life. When I made that decision and it was like f*ck, this is it. It felt like all my dreams had [been] crushed. I know I have a lot of losses, but even when I lost sometimes, I was like this is just a minor setback. This is just a setback. I will get better. I will train harder. I will go again. I will try again, and I will come back and I will achieve the goals that I set out to achieve.
“So now this time when I retired, I had to come to this point where I said to myself, ‘Well, that’s it. You will not achieve those goals. It will not happen for you. You weren’t good enough. You didn’t manage to get where you wanted to get. This is it now for you as a fighter. Time to hang them up, Artem. Bye-bye.’ It was an emotional time for me.”
While he never amassed the kind of record that made him a legitimate threat to champions in organizations like the UFC, Lobov never backed down from a challenge, which made him a popular draw in both MMA and bare-knuckle fighting.
In 2019, Lobov engaged in one of the most talked about fights of the year when he beat former boxing champion Paulie Malignaggi in the BKFC to settle a longstanding grudge that started with his close friend, former two-division UFC champion Conor McGregor.
Unfortunately, Lobov never tasted victory again during his career and was forced to look at the hard reality that he was facing the potential for diminishing returns if he continued fighting.
“I’m 35. I was like if I have to restart now again and try to work towards something, I’m going to be getting older and older,” Lobov said. “The time is a little bit pushing on me here. Another reason was the brain damage. It’s been in the news the last couple of years. It’s something that I certainly paid attention to a lot, and I realized that I’m going to need my health. I’m probably not going to make enough money fighting to just [last] me a lifetime, so I’m going to have to be doing something else so for that I need a good, working brain.
“On top of that, I have a kid now, who I would like to be a good father to. Be a grandfather to his children one day. So all these things combined, I was just like mate, it’s probably time to get up and go pursue something else while you’re still young and energetic and know what’s what. That’s why I made that decision.”
While he’s resolved to stay retired, Lobov admits there are a couple of scenarios that would make him dust off his gloves and step back into the cage or ring again. Lobov isn’t necessarily expecting either of these fights to actually happen, but he recognizes that this would be the only way he will ever compete again.
“There’s only two ways that I go back and fight again,” Lobov revealed. “The [Zubaira] Tukhugov fight, that goes without retirement. I don’t care if I’m retired or not. I always want that fight no matter what. And if somebody wants to make my dream come true and offer me seven figures, then it’s going to change things up a lot.
“A lot of the issues I just mentioned for my retirement, they will not be playing as big of a part anymore. Seven figures could help you to set up your financial future for the family, and that’s a big thing for me of course and [would] open up a lot of doors as well. So I would consider coming back for those two reasons. Tukhugov fight or seven-figure payday.”