Once Alexander Volkov knew who his opponent would be at UFC Fight Night 115, there was one person who was essential to have in camp: 6-foot-11 former Pride, UFC and Pancrase veteran Semmy Schilt.
The 43-year-old nicknamed “Hightower” proved to be a valuable tool in preparation for Stefan Struve, and it showed in the Octagon. Volkov battered the 7-foot Dutchman for the better part of three rounds, outlanding his foe by 94 significant strikes en route to a technical knockout triumph at the 3:30 mark of round three in Rotterdam, Netherlands on Saturday. Schilt’s last MMA bout was in 2008, and over the course of a 41-bout career he competed against the likes of Sergei Kharitonov, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Fedor Emelianenko and Josh Barnett, to name a few.
“Semmy helped me a great deal,” Volkov said through a translator at the post-fight press conference. “My manager told me I would be fighting Struve, my first thought was to get Semmy to participate in our camp….When he came I was very grateful to him, and his help was priceless.”
While Volkov was largely in control against Struve, he did have to overcome some adversity. A flying knee opened a gash near his left eye in the first round, and “Drago” also had to endure multiple eye pokes from his rangy opponent. In the end, nothing could faze the former Bellator heavyweight champion.
“I was more afraid of doctors stopping the fight because my vision became blurry,” said Volkov, who also added he received five stitches for the cut. “It’s hard to say how it influenced the fight. I had a feeling I could finish it in the first and the second, but frankly I’m happy to say I finished in the third….I fought a good hard fight, and I’m happy with it.”
Volkov didn’t necessarily land one fight-altering blow. Instead it was the accumulation of clean punches that eventually wore Struve down. That approach was by design.
“He performed quite well. When I caught him I knew I could finish. I didn’t want to take risks,” Volkov said. “He was ready to throw back when he was covering up. I methodically destroyed him instead of putting all my effort into one strike.”
At 6-foot-7, Volkov is accustomed to being the taller man in the cage on most nights. The fact that he wasn’t in that position on Saturday ultimately didn’t make much of a difference, and Volkov again attributed that to having Schilt as a sparring partner.
“We just spoke about Sammy,” he said with a chuckle. “It was much harder to fight him than Stefan.”
Volkov’s three-fight winning streak ties him for the third-longest active run in the UFC’s heavyweight division. Although he could already call himself a contender based on that, he is admittedly more concerned about securing a fight in his homeland than the identity of his next adversary.
“Right now I am thinking not about whom to fight, but I would like to think about where to fight,” he said. “Five Russian fighters won [tonight] and it would be great if UFC would come to Russia. I would be happy to headline this [card].
For Volkov, that would be even better than even a high-profile bout in Las Vegas.
“I think a UFC event could [fill] the biggest stadium in Russia,” he said. “For me personally it’s better to fight in Russia and to show the UFC how many fans in Russia love the UFC. If you saw today there were a lot of Russian fans in the crowd, and they were chanting louder than other people. Our fans they are smart, fun and crazy and they will show the world they love mixed martial arts.”