He has been on the periphery of greatness in the heavyweight division for what seems like his entire career, never active enough to join the top tier but always dangerous enough to make the move seem plausible.
Sergei Kharitonov still has time to change the perceptions about him. The 36-year-old Russian paratrooper will attempt to bounce back from a surprising knockout loss to Tachi Palace Fights veteran Javy Ayala in his Bellator MMA debut when he faces Chase Gormley in a three-round heavyweight showcase at Bellator 175 on Friday at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois. Kharitonov has not competed since being cut down by Ayala in a mere 16 seconds at Bellator 163 in November, the loss closing the book on his five-fight winning streak. He has not suffered back-to-back defeats since 2006, when he was beaten in consecutive outings under the Pride Fighting Championships banner in Japan (online sportsbooks).
As Kharitonov approaches his critical clash with Gormley in the Chicago suburbs, here are five things you might not know about him:
1. He is tournament-tested.
Kharitonov has won two tournaments and reached the semifinals in two others. On Aug. 11, 2000, he defeated Zamir Syrgabayev, Viacheslav Kolesnik and Roman Savochka in a combined 7:20 to win the Brilliant 2 Tournament. He then needed less than two minutes to submit Osmanli Vagabov and David Shvelidze to win the Tournament of Real Men 8 in 2003. Kharitonov later advanced to the semifinal rounds of the 2004 Pride heavyweight grand prix and the 2011 Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix. The former included Murilo Rua, Semmy Schilt, Heath Herring, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Fedor Emelianenko, Mark Coleman and Mirko Filipovic. The latter featured Emelianenko, Alistair Overeem, Antonio Silva, Fabricio Werdum, Andrei Arlovski and Josh Barnett.
2. He almost qualified for an Olympic team as a boxer.
Representing Tajikistan, Kharitonov was a silver medalist in boxing at the 2004 Men’s Asian Amateur Boxing Championships in Puerto Princesa, Philippines. The event served as a qualifier for the 2004 Summer Games in Athens, Greece. Kharitonov lost to Uzbekistan’s Rustam Saidov, a bronze medalist at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, in the super heavyweight final.
3. His passport has been to good use.
The well-traveled Kharitonov has competed in seven different countries as a professional mixed martial artist and kickboxer: South Korea, Japan, Russia, the United States, Ukraine, China and Kazakhstan.
4. Rarely does he break a sweat.
A staggering 24 of Kharitonov’s 29 career bouts have concluded inside the first round. They include losses to Ayala, Overeem, Aleksander Emelianenko, Jeff Monson and Josh Barnett and wins over Overeem, Arlovski, Schilt, Rua, Kenny Garner, Tatsuya Mizuno, Mike Russow and Pedro Rizzo. Seven of his fights have ended in less than 90 seconds.
5. He has struggled to remain relevant due to inactivity.
Since 2005, Kharitnov has never fought more than twice in a calendar year. He made one appearance each in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016.