From sharing jackets with his brothers in the bitter Russian winter to seeing his hand raised in rings around the world, Aleksander Emelianenko (Pictures) knows all too well the long path of chasing one's dream. In this exclusive discussion with Sherdog.com, Aleksander shares his thoughts on his bout with Jesse Gibson Saturday in St. Petersburg, Russia and offers some insight into the Emelianenko family's drive to succeed.
Sherdog.com: How was your preparation for this fight? How are you feeling one day out?
Aleksander Emelianenko (Pictures): I feel good. Tomorrow's match will show how good my preparation has been, and whether I needed to prepare differently.
Sherdog.com: How long were you training for this fight?
AE: Over the last two months, I have been on almost concurrent training camps here at Red Devil in St. Petersburg.
Sherdog.com: What do you think of the fact that Gilbert Yvel (Pictures) has pulled out?
AE: As far as we know he was fighting recently at a tournament in Holland and somehow injured himself to the extent that he has had to pull out.
Sherdog.com: What do you think of an opponent (Jesse Gibson) whom you don't know very much?
AE: I don't know anything about him at all. And it doesn't concern me in the least.
Sherdog.com: Given that you were probably preparing for Gilbert Yvel (Pictures) to a certain extent, have you had to change the last week of preparation and your strategy for Gibson?
AE: The preparation has been the way it has always been. I plan to orientate myself in the fight in the initial minutes and then proceed from there.
Sherdog.com: Are you planning on keeping the fight on your feet like you usually do, or given the fact that he has a strong karate background, would you consider taking the contest to the ground?
AE: I plan to finish the fight quickly and by knockout.
Sherdog.com: Let's discuss your career briefly. After Saturday night, where would you like to take things in the next year?
AE: At the present moment I don't have a contract with any organisation. My manager Vadim Finkelstein is currently involved in trying to procure a contract and fights for me.
Sherdog.com: Can you name fighters with whom you'd like to fight in the future?
AE: There are many strong fighters with whom I would like to meet. I'd prefer not to mention any names at this point.
Sherdog.com: If you were to choose which promotion to join if PRIDE was once again functioning, and you could have your pick, which organization would you choose?
AE: It doesn't make a lot of difference to me what the organization is. As long as they have the strongest opponents.
Sherdog.com: A couple of questions about your kin. Firstly can you talk a little about your brothers? Ivan, the youngest. What do you think of his preparation to date, and do you think that he can attain the level of success that you and your brother [Fedor] have attained?
AE: Of course he can. Ivan is at this point only 18 years old. Fedor was in the army at his age and then competed in Sambo for a long time after he came back. He started in MMA at 25. I started fighting at 23. Ivan still has to pick up a lot of skills, maturity and experience. He still has a lot to learn.
Sherdog.com: Would you like him to follow in your footsteps?
AE: You know, we don't have a family legacy in [MMA] or anything. It has always been up to him. If he wants to do it then I will do everything I can to help him. If he chooses a different path in life, I will be equally happy for him and help in that if I can.
Sherdog.com: What do your parents think about what you all do? Do they worry?
AE: Our parents are very happy for us and proud. It is of course hard for them to watch the actual fights, very hard. But in terms of our careers, they couldn't be happier.
Sherdog.com: You've spoken in the past about the hardships your family was facing prior to you all getting into MMA, can you expand on this please?
AE: We were a very poor working family with four kids. Our mother was a teacher and our father had a number of industrial jobs. When Fedor came back from the army, things were very hard. There was a time in the late nineties when we had to share one jacket between the two of us.
Sherdog.com: What is your prediction for the fight on Saturday night?
AE: Every sportsman wants to finish his fights quickly and decisively. I plan to end it with a knockout, but I don't know in which round.
Sherdog.com: Given that the fights are taking place in a ring built on a pontoon moored to a ship in the St. Petersburg harbour, are you concerned that waves and weather may make conditions difficult?
AE: I think the set up will make a huge difference. As you can see we are having some weather difficulties. And the conditions, if bad, will mean that we have to adapt a lot. The setup, with St. Petersburg in the background -- in the middle of white nights -- is going to be great to watch for the viewer, but is going to make things more difficult for the fighter. I haven't yet been on the pontoon, but maybe it will be OK.
Sherdog.com: What do you plan to do after the fight?
AE: I plan to rest for a while, and then look forward to my next challenge.