Artur Kyshenko's interview before the upcoming KLF 68
The pride of Ukraine, Artur Kyshenko, is currently ranked no 1 in the world among welterweights in Kickboxing. It’s not very surprising, considering his winning streak of 16 fights and being undefeated since March 2014. Throughout Artur’s career, he has beaten fighters such as Mike Zambidis, Andy Souwer, Nieky Holzken and Yodsenklai Fairtex. After several years at legendary Mike’s Gym in Amsterdam, he recently opened his own gym in Varcelona, and started thinking about how to end his fighting career in the best possible fashion. Artur gives us the story of how a young kid from a poor family in Ukraine conquered the biggest fighting scene in the world!
It’s a sunny October afternoon in Barcelona when we call Artur. He turns his mobile phone so that we can see how close the beach and Mediterranean are from his gym. A few years ago he didn’t speak English at all, but since he moved from Ukraine seven years ago, he has been forced to learn. Nevertheless, now it’s all about learning Spanish, to better communicate with his new students. It feels very relevant to interview Artur right now, as only one month remains until he faces the young talent Constantino ”Costas” Nanga at Rumble of the Kings in Sweden.
A fighter on the move
About 31 years ago, Artur Kyshenko was born in Odessa, Ukraine (Soviet Union at that time). During the past decade he has lived abroad and he doesn’t visit his home country very frequently. We wonder if it might be because of the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, but he says that’s not the case. “I go and visit once in a while, but I don’t have much time nowadays, and to be honest I don’t really want either. It’s better for people to meet me here in Barcelona. Odessa hasn’t been affected by the conflict at all. Most parts of Ukraine hasn’t even noticed the so called war, more than hearing about it on the news. I was there in 2015 when it was most intense and I didn’t see anything that had to do with war.”
”I SIGNED A THREE YEAR CONTRACT WITH K-1 AND STARTED MAKING SOME REAL MONEY”
As an 11-year-old, Artur started training boxing but after a year he switched to Muay Thai. For years later he went to his first Muay Thai world championship (IFMA) and won a bronze medal. The following years he won the Ukrainian Nationals, European Championship and the World Championship, and it became obvious that young Artur was ready to become a professional fighter. He received an invitation to K-1 East Europe MAX 2006 and he now had the chance to shows his skills. “I had three fights that night and I won all by knockout. Although my life didn’t really change because of that, I still won a belt and some money, which of course was amazing for a 19 year old kid. But I didn’t know what it would lead to. Short after, K-1 booked me to fight Rayen Simson in Japan, and it was after winning that fight that things really started to change. I signed a three year contract with K-1 and started making some real money, 10 000 dollars per fight!”
Artur kept on training and defeated well-known fighters such as Mike Zambidis, Andy Souwer and Yoshihiro Sato. He was close to become K-1 World Champion several times, but came short every time, e.g. twice against the Japanese legend Masato. “I had lost several fights and felt that I needed to change something. My trainers blamed my losses on bad luck and wanted us to keep our way of working. But how can it work to prepare in the same way for a K-1 Final as I had done for amateur tournaments in Muay Thai? It doesn’t make any sense! 2010 I decided to move to the Netherlands and start training at Mike’s Gym.”
With the help of head coach Mike Passenier, Artur developed both his fighting and his English. He liked it there and stayed for four years, before it was time to take the next step in life. “My wife was pregnant and we started questioning if we really wanted to raise a child in Amsterdam. We had been in Barcelona for a month’s holiday and really loved the city. I didn’t have a contract with any promotion at that point, so I sad thank you to Mike and moved. The first six months were tough as we didn’t speak the language, but slowly but surely it got better. Our son is three years old now, loves it here and speaks Catalan. Ten months ago we opened the doors to my own gym, Kyshenko Gym.”
”WHAT IF I PAY TRIBUTE TO A FIGHTER AND LATER ON GET TO KNOW THAT HE BEATS HIS WIFE?”
Memories and promotions
The list of Artur’s 83 fights contains many names and we get into a discussion about the best fighter he has faced. But Artur doesn’t want to name anyone, because of how they have, or might have, behaved outside the ring. “I’ve seen fighters in and out of the ring, and all are not good people. There are fighters who are skilled in fighting, but after the fight they refuse to take photos with the fans, or disrespect their opponents. I look at the whole picture, and that’s why I don’t want to name anyone. What if I pay tribute to a fighter and later on get to know that he beats his wife? How would that look?”
”It’s easier to choose my best memories and milestones. My K-1 title from 2006 of course, and when I won Kunlun Fight Tournament -80 kg in 2015. In the latter I won the first fight by knockout and was facing Dmitry Valent in the final, but I had a serious injury in my arm which made me question my chances. However, my team believed in me and pushed me to do my best. After 23 seconds in the first round I won by knockout. It was my second belt in my career. I also have one from Kings of Kickboxing 2013, but that was only one fight and not against any big opponent.”
”I WAS SUPPOSED TO GET 100 000 DOLLARS, BUT THEY ONLY GAVE ME 10 000”
It’s soon been three years since Artur signed with Chinese Kunlun Fight, and his choice was affected both by available weight classes and money.”Glory has 77 kg and K-1 have no weight class above 70 kg at the moment, but Kunlun has 80 kg which suits me the best. They’re trying to push me up to 85 kg now as it’s easier to find opponents at that weight. Kunlun is also probably best in the world when it comes to getting paid. I get every payment in advance, before I’ve even stepped into the ring. That’s a demand from my side after my experiences with K-1. In 2012 I was the runner-up om K-1 World Max and was supposed to get 100 000 dollars, but they only gave me 10 000. I still haven’t received the money that was missing, so from that day I always need my payments in advance.”
Next month, 25th of November, Artur will give the Swedish people a show when he faces Muay Thai talent Constantino ”Costas” Nanga in Rumble of the Kings. Artur admits that he doesn’t know much about Costas, only that he’s a Thaiboxer. When he hears of the age difference between them, he gets surprised and concludes what it means for the fight. “If he’s that young it means that he’s hungry and very motivated, probably more motivated than me. But I don’t think his experience is sufficient. Plus, I have 15 straight wins and am at the peak of my career.”
It’s obvious that Artur has started to think about retirement, and he seems motivated to end his career. To switch over to MMA like others from his sport has done is not an option. “I’m ranked number one right now, so why should I switch to MMA and end up number 10 or 20 in the rankings? I haven’t been ranked below top five since 2006. Is it wise to end a great career with changing sport and be ranked number 20? Even if it means more money, let’s say a few hundred thousand dollars, they will be gone shortly anyway. A new house or a new car, and then you have to work again. I also consider the risk of injuries to be high when you make such a drastic change at a late point in your career.”
”I’LL DEFINITELY FIGHT DURING 2018 BUT IT MIGHT BE MY LAST YEAR”
”I had planned to stop fighting at 30, since that was 10 years after my breakthrough in Japan. But I’m not ready to finish just yet, I’m not there mentally. I’d say I have about three or four fights left, so I’ll definitely fight during 2018 but it might be my last year. It’s important to me to finish in a nice way, being at the top, and retire for real. Not like some, who retires three times per year and keep coming out of retirement for new fights. Peter Aerts for example, who was three time K-1 World Champion with more than 100 fights on his record, shouldn’t have to come back and fight youngsters when he’s 45 years old!”
The interview is approaching the end when Artur suddenly gets jumped by his three year old son, who tries to finish his dad with something similar to a rear naked choke. While laughing, Artur tries to answer our last question, who we should interview next. “Andy Souwer has a fascinating career. First world champion in Shoot Boxing, then in K-1 and now he’s fighting in MMA for RIZIN. We’ve fought four times and I’ve managed to win three of them. We actually met a few weeks ago when wedid a seminar together with Ernesto Hoost. It was nice to catch up and talk about old memories!”
We thank Artur Kyshenko for the interview and wish him good luck at KLF 68, 17th of December in Zunyi, China.
Author: Pelle Axelsson