Lithuania's Artemij Sitenkov has terrorized the 135-pound division for the last eight years with his lightning-fast submissions. At the beginning of 2012, the 28-year-old Vale Tudo MMA Academy fighter decided to drop down a weight class and is currently ranked #1 in the Groundandpound.de European Flyweight Top 10. We talked to the owner of fourteen submission victories about his plan to prove to UFC president Dana White that he is not only one of the strongest fighters in Europe, but also able to match up with the opposition inside the Octagon.
Groundandpound.de: How would you describe yourself to those that don't know you yet?
Artemij Sitenkov: My name is Artemij Sitenkov, I am 28 years old and I'm from Vilnius, Lithuania. I'm fighting out of Vale Tudo MMA Academy. My fighting style is grappling. I'm happy to be recognized as the #1 flyweight fighter in Europe right now. I do hold a couple of titles in amateur sports as well as MMA, but I believe that the best titles are still to come in the future.
GnP: How did you get involved in MMA?
Sitenkov: I have been involved in martial arts since I was seven years old. Most combat sports quickly became boring and were not extreme enough for me, then I tried MMA and even after training it for almost ten years now it still gives me a lot of fun and adrenaline. I can honestly say that MMA is my favorite sport of all.
GnP: Why did you make the drop to flyweight?
Sitenkov: I made the move, because all of my opponents at bantamweight were cutting weight to make the 135-pound limit, while I'm a natural bantamweight and hardly had to cut anything. At the day of the fight I had always been lighter than my opponents, which made it harder to win high-level fights.
GnP: You've applied for a spot on the fourteenth season of "The Ultimate Fighter". Why didn't you make the final cast?
Sitenkov: I tried to make it into the "TUF" house, but unfortunately I caught a nasty flue during the flight to the States and I spent several days in the hotel without any kind of medicine. The pharmacies wouldn't sell me anything since I didn't have a prescription, even though I was really sick. I couldn't really eat anything and lost a couple of kilos. In the end I still went to the tryouts and gave my best, but was too weak to really make an impression on Dana White.
GnP: Is it still your goal to go after that UFC contract?
Sitenkov: Yes, I want to become the first Lithuanian fighter in the UFC. It is my only goal in this sport.
GnP: How many fights do you still have to win to get a contract?
Sitenkov: Honestly I don't know how many fights I still have to win. I think it is more important to be noticed by the UFC authorities, but somehow they seem to prefer the British fighters ahead of the rest of Europe.
GnP: How is life in Lithuania as a mixed martial artist?
Sitenkov: MMA is only at the beginning of gaining popularity in Lithuania. For me, fighting is more a hobby I take pleasure from, than a serious source of income. Sometimes I can make some money from sponsors, Swedish brand "Kenka" supports me with gear for competition and training. In Lithuania there are a couple of big events which attract a lot of spectators, sometimes as many as 10,000 and I participated there several times, but the fight purses are very small there, so I'm mainly fighting abroad as most Lithuanian MMA fighters do.
GnP: You are ranked first in our flyweight rankings. Englishman Phil Harris is a close second. When will the fight between the two of you happen?
Sitenkov: I hope I will get to fight him soon, but unfortunately it's not me who can decide that. Billy is a nice guy, last time we met we joked that next time we're probably gonna meet inside the cage, but I want to take him out to move one step closer to the UFC. Unfortunately for that very reason I have the feeling that his management is avoiding the fight.
GnP: The two of you combine for 27 career submissions. Could we be in for a submission fest should the fight eventually take place?
Sitenkov: I think Harris will try to avoid going to the ground with me and instead look to score points on the feet and win a decision that way. I'm always working to improve my game and make it more unpredictable and I'm sure I'd have a nice surprise in store for him as well.
GnP: Any last words?
Sitenkov: I'd like to thank all the readers and MMA fans. Because of you, our sport is gaining popularity. Thank you for the support!